Red Riding Hood – review

“A wonderful festive treat that will delight both the young and the old alike!”
Theatre Royal Stratford East
afridiziak ratings
Review by: Selina Julien
Published: Wednesday 8th December 2021, 3:04pm

Nothing beats a fun retelling of a classic fairy-tale and Stratford East’s Red Riding Hood pantomime is just that as it takes you into the deep, dark woods where our eco-warrior heroine Red (an exuberant Elise Zavou) sets off to deliver a basket of essential goods to her granny.

It’s one of many pandemic nods in a story peppered with pop culture and climate change references, with an anatomy lesson thrown in for good measure.

As much panto as it is a love letter to East London, local communities and beyond will adore the insider jokes

Red’s mum Cinderella (Kirsty Whelan) is a selfie-obsessed influencer, Faerie Berry’s Bake Off is coming to the lively town and Red is troubled by the “Help me!” cries of the forest and the disappearance of a host of fairy tale animals.

Jodie Jacobs (Woody), Elise Zavou (Red), Ashley Goh (Bow Peep) and the cast of Red Riding Hood. Credit The Other Richard.
Jodie Jacobs (Woody), Elise Zavou (Red), Ashley Goh (Bow Peep) and the cast of Red Riding Hood. Credit The Other Richard.

The seven-strong cast are all triple threats with standout performances from comedian Phil Nichol who transforms into a fabulously coiffed panto dame playing Granny, with outlandish makeup and PVC costumes. He effortlessly guides the audience through the tale, with plenty of double entendres to keep the adults cackling. Raphael Bushay makes an excellent villain as Wolf, bursting into vibrant song and throwing on a furry hood as he prepares to devour his next victim – much to the feral screams of the younger kids in the theatre.

kudos to Stratford Panto for its brilliant casting

As much panto as it is a love letter to East London, local communities and beyond will adore the insider jokes – it’s set in Stratford-on-the-Down, Bo Peep (Ashley Goh) hails from Bow and refers to her posse as “them Bow’s peeps” and spoiler alert – the Wolf retires to Wolfamstow!

Raphael Bushay (Wolf) in Red Riding Hood at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Credit The Other Richard.
Raphael Bushay (Wolf) in Red Riding Hood at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Credit The Other Richard.

This wonderfully diverse cast brings fun and frolics to Stratford panto and where it lacks in plot, this talented bunch more than make up for it with sheer energy and enthusiasm. My nine-year-old niece adored the production and seeing a heroine who resembles her on stage (she loved Red’s hair) is a powerful reminder that representation matters in all art forms, so kudos to Stratford Panto for its brilliant casting.

As the panto draws to a close and granny sings: “We’ve had a flipping awful year, maybe better times are here…” it’s hard not to exhale that little bit louder. We missed the magic of panto last year but it’s back with a vengeance and the performers are genuinely invested in ensuring the audience have a great time.

A wonderful festive treat that will delight both the young and the old alike, Red Riding Hood delivers that much-needed sparkle and joy for this time of year!

Phil Nichol (Granny) in Red Riding Hood at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Credit The Other Richard.
Phil Nichol (Granny) in Red Riding Hood at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Credit The Other Richard.
NEED TO KNOW: Red Riding Hood is at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London, until 31 December

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Three
Nothing beats a fun retelling of a classic fairy-tale and Stratford East’s Red Riding Hood pantomime is just that as it takes you into the deep, dark woods where our eco-warrior heroine Red (an exuberant Elise Zavou) sets off to deliver a basket of essential goods...red-riding-hood-theatre-royal-stratford-east