Theatre review: Huff, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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IS IT A show? Is it an installation? Is it a giant enchanted sculpture with sound? To be honest, I’m not sure; but I am certain that this new 20-minute walk-through experience created by Andy Manley and Shona Reppe for Catherine Wheels Theatre Company is one of the finest pieces made for older children in Scotland this year.

Inspired by the tale of the three little pigs, the Huff is a magical journey through twelve rooms of a little house, constructed in an empty building behind the gallery.

At first, it conjures up images of piggy domestic bliss, at once funny and poignant. The first room is a soft, pink, nursery space echoing baby squeals of laughter; the second is a kitchen full of cheerful jars of straw and brick, where the spice-rack offers freedom, hope, curiosity and fresh air.

Inside the dark, kitchen cupboard, though, we begin to sense the snarling of the predator, the glimmer of fire under the door. And through bedroom, shower, and upside-down bathroom things darken slightly, until we reach a dining room where the music is Mozart’s Lacrimosa, Sergey Jakovsky’s superb lighting reaches a lyrical climax, and a family meal seems destroyed by disaster, with the word “help” scrawled on the wall. Every hidden door to the next room is an artwork, every space a treasure-trove of beautifully-observed detail. And if there’s something here about the sudden horror of war and disaster, and about the cruelty of one species to another – well, it’s delivered with such wit, creativity and love that it leaves us in no doubt that human beings can create a better world for both children and piglets, if only they choose to do so.

Rating: * * * *

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