Red Racing Hood
Terrapin Puppet Theatre
Backspace Theatre, Hobart .
September 16th 2015.
Reviewed by Gai Anderson
There was a palpable excitement in the Backspace on Saturday afternoon as I took my seat amongst the groups of primary school aged children and their parents for the latest show from Terrapin Puppet Theatre - Red Racing Hood. Some it seemed were back for a second time! It was great listening to the thrill in their voices as they discussed how the complex action we were apparently about to see, could possibly have been animated by just 3 puppeteers on the curious retro-looking domestic set waiting in front of us.
Written by Sean Monro and directed By Sam Routledge, Red racing Hood is a simple story writ-large, about a girl called Red and her Gran. Quite cartoon like in feel, with miniature racetrack and a heightened performance style, it uses the archetype of the dangerous wolf in the woods as a foreboding threat hanging over their small country town of Grinalong. The twist is that Gran and the young Red are racing car enthusiasts, and their lives are soon turned upside down by the arrival of a new mayor with big ideas for the restaging of the Grinalong Classic car race.
Reliant on design as much as story and character, the quirky, cleverly designed set allows the 3 talented performer/puppeteers to inhabit and animate this action-packed show as it jumps between scales and atmospheres, between racing action and domestic drama. And so, the domestic scene of Red and Nans home cleverly transforms to become a miniaturized 3 D model of the town, complete with racing track and dangerous woods. And their breadbox becomes the garage for Nans tiny model retro racing car and the toaster becomes the town hall. A tracking video camera and large screen allow the audience to jump between scales, for close ups of the racing action as Red transforms to become the driver of Grans tiny racing car.
The performances of Maeve Mhairi McGregor as the vivacious young Red and Thomas Pidd as the vaudevillian-like Mayor (and dorky policemen) drive the fun and action- filled parts of the show, with their heightened energy and clownish verve in synch with the shows cartoonish style. The more realistic style of Grans character in contrast seemed lack lustre at times and I wondered about this choice. The potential of the central human drama is also less developed than the action which left the story a bit thin for me.
But it is hard sometimes as an adult to appreciate a child’s-eye view of theatre such as this. So as I sat there wanting the beautifully animated wolf to be bigger and to actually scare me, the screams of fear and delight from the front row of the children as it got closer to them, quickly changed my opinion on that.
Overall this is a great children’s show, perhaps perfectly pitched for a primary school audience, and the audience I sat amongst certainly loved it.