The schoolgirls play their playground games, a singsong chorus of “who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?” while Granny watches and coos, “ooh, how you’ve grown” to young Rosaleen. She’s knitting a shawl for her granddaughter to wear as she trots through the woods to visit her, the wool red to match her rosy cheeks.
Moving towards winter, the skies darken earlier and the wind turns cold. “Now is a savage time of year,” Granny cautions, “nothing left for the wolves to eat.” Roaming at twilight with great claws and cleaving teeth, granny advises to never stray from the path, but placing her faith in the knife her father gave her Rosaleen is unafraid even when warned that “the worst kind of wolves are hairy on the inside.”
And in a series of tales told by the schoolgirls, played by Alex Britt in all his various guises, the wolf comes: suave, cocky, slick, ruthless, a biker, a travelling salesman, a member of the family, the groom whose elegant society wedding is interrupted by the arrival of a pregnant woman who lays a terrible curse upon the guests; that story at least has a happy ending, the wolves coming to the witch at night to sing to her and her baby.
Directed by Rebecca Cochran-Patrick and based on The Company of Wolves, a short story by Angela Carter in her collection The Bloody Chamber and expanded into a film directed by Neil Jordan, the screenplay for which was written by Carter and Jordan, Twisted Tales have brought that moonlit menace and sinister magic to the Edinburgh Fringe for an all-too-brief engagement.
Featured throughout are Carina Stephens and Katie Rae as Rosaleen and Granny, though the supporting ensemble of Georgia Leaf, Gina Hope, Felicity Challinor, Clara Mallinkcrodt and Bel Sumner are all given opportunity to step forward to their ferocious fates, and the ubiquitous Britt has quite the howl on him, too.
The threat of the woods heralded by a change in birdsong as Rosaleen in her red shawl encounters a handsome huntsman, the costumes and the use of obvious toys as props give it an air of make-believe, of children playing a beastly game of dress-up but with horrible subject matter, and the rising full moon is cleverly done, adding to the red-tongue-in-hairy-cheek tone.
In a better venue which would allow more elaborate stagecraft, particularly in the lighting, this has the potential to be quite the show; as it is, the low ceiling and flat stage are particular problems, with bare clearance when one of the girls is hoisted aloft by her fellows and much of the performance lost for anyone beyond the front row, though fortunately all have clear voices so at least the dialogue is not swallowed by those big teeth.