Le Petit Chaperon Rouge
The Coronet Theatre
Reviewed – 18th November 2021
“Pommerat works in blurred lines which come together in an ending which is happy, in a very ambiguous way”
A staple of Joël Pommerat’s shows is that the audience are frequently plunged into darkness. For much of the rest of the show the scenes are dimly lit. A few years ago, Pommerat told ‘The Guardian’ that the reason behind his stylistic decision is to give the audience something else to focus on – not just the faces but the bodies, too. “In that way, you can see yourself in the actors. Just like when you read a novel”.
“Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’ follows this concept to the book. The story is related to us by a nameless face: ‘the man who tells the story’, while the action weaves across the stage behind him as though seeping from a child’s imagination and drifting, whisp like, across the stage. It is no surprise to learn that the piece was initially created for one of Pommerat’s daughters. In addition to simply re-telling the familiar tale he strives to inject themes that have never really been addressed by the characters before now. Themes clearly close to his heart and shaped by fatherhood: the desire and fear of growing up, solitude, the transition from one generation to the next. (In his take on the fairy-tale, they all survive – even the wolf who ultimately decides it’s probably better not to eat mummies or little girls).
Rodolphe Martin appears from a blackout out of nowhere to present the fable. “It’s a bit sad, but that’s real life for you”. Murielle Martinelli is the lonely little girl who talks to her own shadow. Desperate to attract her mother’s attention she tries to give her a present one day – some time. Always too busy, the mother, played by Isabelle Rivoal, packs her off to her grandmothers with a cake instead, but not before burdening her with all the maternal worries that the poor little girl can carry. With a pertinent symbolism, Rivoal also takes on the role of the Wolf. Similarly, Martinelli doubles as the Grandmother. Far from being confusing, the switching of roles adds an aching poignancy to the relationships.
Without doubt, a fourth character is found in Grégoire and François Leymarie’s sound design. A mix of dream, nightmare, hallucination, and comfort blanket. Pommerat plays with our senses. We are invited to ‘look with our ears’ and ‘listen closely with both eyes’. The result is intimate and sensory. And short. Whether intentional or not the brevity is, in fact, a blessing. We are left not wanting more but satisfied that this particular type of theatre has been dispensed in just the right dose. To stretch it further could push it over into self-indulgence.
But mercifully it stays in the shadows. Just as any particular morals or lessons are lost in the fog of darkness. Pommerat works in blurred lines which come together in an ending which is happy, in a very ambiguous way. There is also an improvised, or at least a devised, feel to the piece and we feel that on another night we may be treated to something different. This kind of toying might not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying the richness of the flavours offered up by the innovative ‘Compagnie Louis Brouillard’. Even the name is suggestive – ‘brouillard’ is French for ‘fog’. Or ‘obscurity’.
Obscurity is not where this company is heading, though. Rarely seen in the UK up to now, we hope to be seeing much more of their distinctive theatre on our shores.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Le Petit Chaperon Rouge
The Coronet Theatre until 21st November
Five star show reviews this year: