Even before The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase begins, wicked governess Miss Slighcarp paces the stairs outside the space, warning us to behave. Then, after we have chosen and lined up our own chairs in the large smoke-filled space, Not Cricket Production’s adaptation of Joan Aitken’s children’s classic plays out in a charmingly engaging and immersive manner, captivating adults and children in the audience alike.
Bonnie lives in Willoughby Chase with her parents and staff, who are as much friends as servants. When her father and mother depart on a trip to improve Lady Willoughby’s health, Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia are left in the charge of Miss Slighcarp, and soon discover she is not all that she seems.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is beautifully staged, the smoke remaining in the space right until the final moments, which together with the lighting creates an atmospheric mood of mystery and intrigue which suits the piece perfectly.
The young cast are strong, playing their parts straight without any irony or modernism creeping in – giving the piece a classic tone reminiscent of the likes of The Railway Children. And although their projection is variable at times – a particular issue when booted feet stomp on the wooden floors of the space – they succeed in carrying the narrative through without any lapses of pacing.
By the end of this charming tale, order us restored and we file out again, leaving the characters disassembling the set and chatting to each other – and having reminded us that some wolves are of the two-legged kind.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase runs from 10-29 Aug at 17:20 at C soco. More details here.