Arriving at C Venues with ample time before the performance, it was quite a journey in itself to find the venue where this production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was to be performed. Up winding staircases, past dingy bars and finally up a staircase which gave a whole new meaning to the idea of ‘shabby chic’. There was a distinct whiff of a fire in the stairwell, and we suspect that the building was just managing to keep its structure together with some effort – the distress of the building most likely to have been caused by the fire which destroyed the Gilded Balloon venue back in December 2002.
But what an atmospheric setting for the dramatisation of a gothic novel set in the early years of the 19th century. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken was a text familiar to one of our Family Reviewers as she had read it as a school reading exercise a few years ago.
Entering the theatre space we found a dark room which was filled with smoke, and with the actors already assuming their roles and interacting with us as they arranged our seats in the space. A slight issue throughout the production was that there is no stage as such, meaning that the actors took up positions to perform different scenes in a range of different areas of the room, some of which were obscured by a rather large pillar in the centre of the room.
The Junior Reviewers were immediately enthralled with the dark settings, the curious costumes and the power of the narrative. Although it was difficult to work out from some of the costumes exactly what period the play was set in, some post-show research indicates that it is a mythical reign in the early 19th century. One of our reviewers had guessed Victorian era, and this seemed about right, given the themes of orphanages, children’s homes and strict governesses.
The tale itself draws strands of travel, class struggle, good and evil and kept our junior reviewers’ attention throughout. The Fringe rating of 7+ as an age range is just right, and the show would appeal to older children too.
Added comments by Helen (13): It was very atmospheric, and I think I might like to go back and read the book again now.
Added comments by Alex (9): I liked the smoke and the strange room it was in. It was a really good story.
Dates: Until 29th August @ C-Soco-Studio 2a
By The McNaughton Family Review Team