EFR - Reviews of HOOD!

HOOD!

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Catherine Kitsis

at 00:08 on 24th Aug 2011

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‘Hood’ , a physical theatre piece telling the Little Red Riding Hood tale with a savage yet modern twist is a show truly intended for the Edinburgh Fringe. The piece uses text sparingly, with most of the stage time being taken up by movement and vocal sequences which evoke various settings: a creepy wood full of eyes, ears and noises, grandmother’s creaky old house and a busy town full of hustle and bustle. Moody old-world verse is interspersed with modern idiom in a Burton-esque fusion of old and new, gothic and punky – a mix which characterises the production.

It is very clear that these young performers have workshopped and rehearsed long and hard to put together a slick, energetic and engaging piece of theatre – and the standard of their work is high. All music is acoustically performed and combines the sounds of the forest with song which serves to create a jaunty atmosphere and provide the piece with volatile texture. If I had to pick a hole in the devising process I would guess that the musical elements had been largely developed by the cast as part of the rehearsal process – there is nothing wrong with this and the results were very watchable, but I think getting a professional on board (none is credited, while there was definitely a choreographer) would have lifted the entire production into a sterling category; the cast certainly seemed able enough to learn more complex musical arrangements, and I think a little more intricacy would have added to the depth of the piece.

The set up of the piece is well conceived – all characters and action come out of the ensemble; feral, dirty-faced beasts wearing shredded rags who screech and squawk in a chorus of the dark forest and use a collection of moth-eaten rags to create a backdrop for the movement work. After their character scenes, actors return to the chorus seamlessly – an awareness of what it is that drives their ensemble characters to break into character and then return to the group is a hallmark of good ensemble work, and something this piece achieves with aplomb.

The cast’s commitment to their ensemble creatures was flawless all the way through – and the dance and song sequences were moreishly watchable. For the most part the acting was good –there may have been a couple of weak links when it came to delivery of the verse but a couple of male cast members had voices to die for and held the stage with weighty presence.

This is an ideal piece to watch at the Fringe – its insightful creativity taps into a primal story and holds its own against the various stage and screen adaptations most of us will have come across over the years.

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Ingrid Jendrzejewski

at 09:15 on 24th Aug 2011

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Billed as a 'darkly brilliant ride through the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale', Hood! takes its audience on a journey that loosely follows the trajectory of the Red Riding Hood story, with its own dark twists and turns along the way. Much of tale is told through sound, music, movement and Lily Hawkins’ brilliant choreography.

In some ways, the show feels like a series of vignettes that flow into each other. Wild, anarchic, guttural forest scenes melt into interior spaces, just as forest creatures mutate into familiar fairy tale characters and then dissolve back into the shadows. From the very first moment, you know you are in for a retelling of Red Riding Hood like no other.

There are some truly magical passages in Hood!. For example, the depiction of the Grandmother’s house is quirky and delightful, and Little Red’s experience of getting lost in the forest is beautifully executed and genuinely gripping.

The dialogue-heavy scenes are perhaps the least effective. In particular, I felt the segments with strained rhymes broke the magic quite considerably. The clunkiness of the language seemed at odds with the smartness of the rest of the production, and the characterisations of Little Red and her parents felt like something borrowed from a completely different production.

However, the rest of the show more than makes up for this. Throughout the entire piece, the performers do most incredible things with their voices; they conspire to create a rich, haunting soundscape that lingers in the memory well after the show has ended. Hood! comes into its own when the storytelling is left to sound and song, movement and choreography.

In general, the performers weren’t quite as adept with their bodies as they were with their voices. There is a beautiful, ethereal, uninhibited quality in the way that the actors vocalise that isn’t always matched by their physical movements. Most of the members of the company are students or recent graduates with Durham University links who do not have extensive experience in physical theatre. (A few have dance backgrounds which serve them well.) The show is very challenging and demands a lot from the performers; it is remarkable what the company is able to create without extensive training.

Finally, the ending could have packed a slightly harder punch with a few tweaks. Throughout the show, frightening moments were often accompanied by increases in volume and activity; this lessened the impact of the climax as it felt like another round of frenzied noise and motion instead of the resolution to a story. More might be done with suspenseful silences and hushed panic in earlier scenes to remedy this.

Do not let any of this put you off seeing this production, however. Overall, Hood! is slick, impressive and uninhibited. The choreography is inventive and accomplished, the staging is imaginative and transporting, and the a capella vocals alone are worth the price of a ticket. Peculius Stage is doing something interesting and ambitious, unique and unforgettable. Hood! should not be missed.

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