A long time JOAN Aiken admirer, theatre director Russ Tunney has adapted (and premiered) a gloriously funny and faithful stage version of Joan Aiken’s classic children’s book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase .
The adaptation has been published by Nick Hern Books in a practical edition with performance notes and background information, and lends itself usefully to casts of anything from five upwards – especially if they are incredibly active quick change artists – even, currently, in a distanced production at The Greenwich Theatre, where the cast form a chorus of children, and all the fiendish villains and even the wolves from the original story, while providing music and songs and plenty of laughs.
Using all the tongue in cheek humour of the original story with its Gothic thrills and adventures, Russ Tunney, and current director James Haddrell have also added some ‘more than Aiken‘ touches of their own – including a hilarious scene in the dreadful Blastburn School run by beastly Mrs Brisket, where the deliciously ridiculous ‘Cheese Alphabet‘ is recited by the hapless starving orphans, including, by now, our two wretched heroines, Bonnie and Sylvia.
When the school inspector comes to call they are dragged to their feet to recite:
MRS BRISKET: Show the nice man from from Ofsted our
advanced literacy: The Cheese Alphabet!
CHILDREN: A is for Applewood Smoked, B is for Brie, C is
for Cheshire, D is for Davidstow, E is for Edam, F is for Feta
(or Fromage), G is for Gruyère, H is for Halloumi, I is for
Ibérico, J is for Jarlsberg, K is for Klosterkäse, L is for
Leicester (red), M is for Mascarpone, Manchego or
Monterey Jack, N is for Neufchâtel, O is for Orkney Extra
Mature, P is for Parmesan, Q is for Queso Jalapeño, R is for
Raclette, S is for Stilton, T is for Tasmania Highland Chevre
Log, U is for Ubriaco, V is for Vacherin Fribourgeois, W is
for Wensleydale, X is for Xynotyro, Y is for Yorkshire Blue,
and Z is for Zanetti Grana Padano.
INSPECTOR: Incredible! They really know their cheeses!
MRS BRISKET: Thank you, Inspector. We do, here at the
Brisket Blastburn Academy for Girls, concentrate on the
three R’s. Reading, Writing and Really tasty snacks.
An absolute delight! – the Stage review of the première says it all:
“The Wolves of Willoughby Chase has never been adapted for the stage before…and I can’t think why not.
Joan Aiken’s children’s classic about two young girls and a goose-boy fighting for survival against howling wolves and grim governesses in a bleak snowy landscape is a gift for any company as family entertainment.
Russ Tunney’s script … blends melodrama, comedy, adventure and a little spookiness interwoven with songs and dances…with actors nipping in and out of costume and character at high speed… glorious snuggle down and enjoy Christmas present of a production that will charm children and adults alike.
Wonderful stuff – worth wrapping up warm and turning out on a freezing night for.”
(from Lesley Bates, The Stage)
Except now, thanks to lockdown you can enjoy it by the comfort of your own fireside!
STREAMING now at The Greenwich Theatre – BOOK HERE
Guess who… Miss Slighcarp in rehearsal!