ANY dance companies looking to attract young audiences would do well to check out Barrowland Ballet’s latest offering.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Even without the hoots of laughter, excitable chat and general murmurs of approval coming from the school groups surrounding me in Tramway, it was clear from the start that Little Red is a winner in every way.
Despite tackling a folktale usually aimed at pre-schoolers, this fresh new version of Little Red Riding Hood targets the seven plus market, hitting the spot equally well with teens and adults.
Co-creators Natasha Gilmore and Robert Alan Evans can give themselves a large pat on the back – not just for the athletic, quirky movement and accessible script, but for assembling a crack team of collaborators.
All three dancers, Jade Adamson, Kai Wen Chuang and Vince Virr, take on the roles of Little Red and the Wolf – often simultaneously. Seeing three Little Reds running through the forest or three wolves attempting to digest grandmother might sound odd, but it actually works remarkably well. There is no sense of confusion, just an awful lot of fun.
Composer and sound designer Kim Moore does much to keep the pace going, using atmospheric original music interspersed with well-chosen oldies (I’ve Got You Under My Skin a witty accompaniment to the wolf’s post-dinner dance after scoffing down granny) .
Alison Brown’s costumes not only bring a real sense of character, but occasionally act as mini pieces of set, with Little Red’s hoods becoming a row of tiny tents at one point.
But an extra shiny gold star has to go to Fred Pommerehn’s set and lighting design, which is a gift that keeps on giving.
Imposing 20ft structures hidden beneath black sheets are revealed to be tall trees made of chairs, red balloons fall from above and a mobility scooter is put to hilarious use.
Brief moments of straightforward contemporary dance last just long enough to engage but not bore, and something witty and attention-grabbing is always just around the corner.
Snow Pals, the Tron’s Christmas show for three to six-year-olds, also does a fine job of capturing young imaginations. The show’s structure is, quite rightly, simple: two friends have fun in the snow, making snowballs and throwing flurries into the air – much to the delight of the cross-legged front row. The pals share their belongings, and the workload, to build a snowman – then make cups of tea.
Moments of well-timed slapstick have youngsters giggling away; while a scene involving a washing line and colourful laundry has the whole room chortling.
Unfortunately, precious time is used up on an item way outside a child’s frame of reference (a mangle) and playing with a saw. As a result, a potentially exciting hike up a mountain to see Jack Frost is rushed, and arrives just as audience concentration has started to slip.
The subtle message about friendship, sharing and kindness, however, is right on track – and Snow Pals has a gentle charm perfectly pitched at younger viewers.
• Little Red until 23 December, Snow Pals until 31 December