Published in the Guardian
Tron Theatre, Glasgow
YOU couldn't fault this adaptation of Julia Donaldson's novel for being short of themes. In 90 minutes, it ticks off bereavement, child abuse, missing people, drug addiction, mental illness, multiculturalism and the search for identity. Throw in a cat-and-mouse chase across the country, and you have the kind of sensationalist narrative that plays well to the target teenage audience.
For as long as the show focuses on her dilemma, it remains gripping. Things get uneven when Donaldson's other themes take over, particularly when Leonora falls into an odd netherworld of well-meaning but erratic psychiatric out-patients.
Stuck awkwardly between comedy and tragedy, these scenes are a distraction – largely because the story is not about mental illness. As with the other themes, it is an idea appended to the narrative and not fundamental to it; more like a topic for classroom discussion than a dramatic device. The same is true of the abusive uncle. He functions as a symbol of an unreliable adult word, but is too sketchily portrayed to be more than a gratuitous bogeyman.
What the story is really about – Leonora and her Little Red Riding Hood journey of self-discovery – is obscured by the extraneous material from the novel. It is a weakness compounded by the unresolved ending, one that lessens the impact of the excitement that has preceded it.
© Mark Fisher, 2013
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