Theatre review: Little Red And The Wolf | Uncanny Valley | Moonbeam On A Cat’s Ear

Irene Macdougall in Little Red and the Wolf. Picture: Tommy Ga Ken Wan
Irene Macdougall in Little Red and the Wolf. Picture: Tommy Ga Ken Wan
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At the heart of Dundee Rep’s new version of Little Red And The Wolf – created by writer-director Scott Gilmour and composer Claire McKenzie – there’s a superb scene that pinpoints this show’s impressive relevance to the world in which we’re currently living.

Little Red And The Wolf | Dundee Rep | Rating ****

Uncanny Valley | Edinburgh Science Festival, Summerhall | Rating ****

Moonbeam On A Cat’s Ear | Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh | Rating ***

In the little town of Fayble, there have been wolf attacks; and the mayor’s official line, conveyed from behind his portable lectern, is that these should not be allowed to change Fayble’s way of life.

As soon as he has finished his speech and left, though, the townspeople in the marketplace flip over their innocent trays of wares, and reveal how eager they are to make a fast buck by flogging horrible weapons for protection against the wolves. And it’s against this backdrop of violence provoked by fear, that our heroine Little Red meets a young wolf in the woods, and decides, together with her new friend Lyca, that it’s time for their two species to learn to co-exist in peace.

All of this is beautifully presented by a seven-strong cast from the Dundee Rep ensemble, who play out the drama as if they had been born to pass on the story of Little Red and her fighting Grandma – superbly played by Marli Siu and Ann Louise Ross – and of all those who have to be convinced, before peace can come to the village and forest. And if the point of the story is obvious, it’s told with such a deep and thorough understanding of the sheer difficulty of breaking down such patterns of hatred and mistrust, that it remains gripping throughout, funny, forceful, and thought-provoking.

At the Science Festival in Edinburgh, the Scottish playwright and performer Rob Drummond is also concerned about how human beings relate to other species; but here, the others are the various forms of artificial intelligence that increasingly share and shape our world. Drummond’s new three-hander Uncanny Valley introduces us to Ada, a lonely and silent schoolgirl recently adopted by kindly Dave and Davina, and devoted to her artificial best friend, Okay.

What Ada doesn’t yet know, though, is that “arties” – artificial intelligence devices – are banned in her new home town, by a lady mayor who has her own reasons for hating them. Over 70 minutes, with Pamela Reid and Kirsty Stuart acting up a storm as Ada and the Mayor, we find ourselves led ever deeper into the debate about whether Okay has self-awareness, and a right to life; and although its Science Festival run is over, this fine and timely piece of interactive theatre for audiences aged eight and over deserves a long life, and an interesting one. And meantime, for much younger children, the Edinburgh-based Jabuti theatre are on tour with their show Moonbeam On A Cat’s Ear, based on the book by Quebecois author and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay. In terms of narrative, the show suffers at first from the fact that the two moonbeam-puppeteer-performers, Rachael Macintyre and Jusztina Hermann, never really introduce themselves or the puppet characters (two sleeping children, a cat and a mouse), and take a long 15 minutes out of 45 to reach the point where the four can actually start the dream voyage that is the heart of the story.

The show’s use of music is so compelling, though, and the visual images of the voyage so gorgeous, that the story becomes steadily more entrancing as it goes on; and by the time the characters are cruising among the planets, the children in the audience are ooing and aahing in wonder, largely thanks to the pulse of the music, the power of Kim Bergsagel’s puppetry, and the beauty of the dream voyage she creates with just a few simple objects, and some fine lighting by Simon Wilkinson.

• Little Red And The Wolf at Dundee Rep until 9 April; Uncanny Valley, run completed; Moonbeam On A Cat’s Ear on tour until 9 April, to Falkirk (today), Rutherglen, Birnam, and Peebles.