Greenwich Theatre, London – until 5 September 2021
This was our second trip to Greenwich Theatre in a week as we returned to watch The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. The production was originally scheduled to run last Christmas but was unfortunately halted by Covid restrictions. After another Covid-enforced delay, it’s finally up and running alongside Pinocchio as part of the theatre’s inaugural in-house rep season of family theatre.
Based on the book by Joan Aitken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase tells the tale of cousins, Bonnie (Alice De-Warrenne) and Sylvia (Cassandra Hercules) who are left in the care of governess, Miss Slighcarp (Anthony Spargo). While wolves roam outside, it soon becomes apparent that the true threat to the inhabitants of Willoughby Chase is Miss Slighcarp herself, who has been hatching a plan with henchman, Mr Grimshaw (Serin Ibrahim) and sinister schoolmistress, Mrs Brisket (also Ibrahim) to steal the family’s fortune. As the wicked trio put their plan into action, it’s up to Bonnie and Sylvia (with a little help from footman, James (Adam Karim) and friend, Simon (also Karim)) to thwart their efforts and liberate Willoughby Chase.
The story is brought to life by a cast of seven who together play more parts than seems feasible (which becomes something of a joke in the show itself). Having already seen Pinocchio, the munchkins really enjoyed spotting the same actors and seeing how they played totally different roles in this production.
Spargo and Ibrahim both seem very much in their element as a trio of comedy villains, while musical director David Haller (who amused us in a range of roles in Pinocchio) spends much of his time at the piano here, but very much makes the most of his moment in the limelight. Reice Weathers is also extremely amusing as he switches between five contrasting characters.
It’s a very funny piece of family theatre which, like all the best shows, caters to both the adults and children of the audience. In another recent review, Mummy mentioned that one of the hallmarks of good family theatre for her is when the munchkins ask her why she is laughing. This happened quite a few times during The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, including one moment when she had descended into a full on giggling fit and had to promise to explain why later. And without wanting to give away too many spoilers, it’s impossible to review this show without noting the magnificence of the cheese alphabet song which has reduced Mummy to laughter again as she types this!
It’s hard to pick holes in this production at all (and there’s probably a cheese joke trying to find its way out of that sentence somewhere) but if we were really nitpicking we’d suggest that the set, which worked so well in Pinocchio, may feel a little out of place to audiences who are unaware that the two shows share scenery. The colourful, carnival themed parts of the set could probably do with being covered up with darker material, allowing the impressive lighting design to really do its magic without distraction.
The munchkins loved The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and both felt that it was aimed more towards their age group (8ish and 9) than Pinocchio. While both productions are recommended for ages 6+ The Wolves of Willoughby Chase probably suits slightly older children, both in terms of the storyline and the meta elements which younger children might find harder to follow (although there is still plenty to keep them entertained, even if they aren’t always fully in on the joke!).
There is just over a week left to catch both shows, with a couple of chances left to squeeze in a two-show Sunday if you fancy doing the Wolves/Pinocchio double. We have really enjoyed the first ever family rep season from Greenwich Theatre and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is playing at Greenwich Theatre from 13 August to 5 September 2021. We received complimentary press tickets to the 11am performance on Thursday 26 September.
Age recommendation: 6+