There's an extraordinary level of detail, and a few dark crannies, in this guided installation through a fairytale house This is a tasty treat: exceptionally grownup theatre for inquisitive people of all ages who like to peer through hidden peep holes, rifle through drawers and open other people's cupboards. And who doesn't enjoy doing just that, given half a chance?
Huff is ridiculously lovely and really rather scary, too. Shona Reppe and Andy Manley's show, inspired by the Three Little Pigs, is lovely because of the extraordinary detail that has gone into the design. It's scary because it suggests that the wolf at the door – and possibly already in the house – may not necessarily be of the furry kind. It's a show that is open enough to be read and experienced on many levels, depending on your age; it will only give you nightmares if you want it to. Beginning in a room packed with pig-inspired kitsch and hints of motherly affection, the piece leads three audience members at a time on a sound-guided journey through a house full of secret doors and surprises, and witty touches. In the kitchen, there are bread bins full of bricks, drawers full of sticks or twigs, cupboards full of fresh air and jars labelled "hop", "terror" and "elbow grease". The fact that the fridge is full of bacon is a mite disturbing.
Moving on, there's a shower room where you will find lotions and potions labelled hogwash and the like. Gradually, things turn a little more surreal and a wee bit dark. In the bathroom everything is upside down; elsewhere, a family meal has clearly been suddenly disturbed, and plates broken. "Help" is scrawled on a wall. Of course, all ends happily enough in a show that gives young audiences a space in which to explore fear in a safe and deliciously different environment. A children's show that more than brings home the bacon. 4 / 5 stars
Theatre review: Huff, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Joyce McMillan
IS IT A show? Is it an installation? Is it a giant enchanted sculpture with sound? To be honest, I’m not sure; but I am certain that this new 20-minute walk-through experience created by Andy Manley and Shona Reppe for Catherine Wheels Theatre Company is one of the finest pieces made for older children in Scotland this year. Inspired by the tale of the three little pigs, the Huff is a magical journey through twelve rooms of a little house, constructed in an empty building behind the gallery. At first, it conjures up images of piggy domestic bliss, at once funny and poignant. The first room is a soft, pink, nursery space echoing baby squeals of laughter; the second is a kitchen full of cheerful jars of straw and brick, where the spice-rack offers freedom, hope, curiosity and fresh air. Inside the dark, kitchen cupboard, though, we begin to sense the snarling of the predator, the glimmer of fire under the door. And through bedroom, shower, and upside-down bathroom things darken slightly, until we reach a dining room where the music is Mozart’s Lacrimosa, Sergey Jakovsky’s superb lighting reaches a lyrical climax, and a family meal seems destroyed by disaster, with the word “help” scrawled on the wall. Every hidden door to the next room is an artwork, every space a treasure-trove of beautifully-observed detail. And if there’s something here about the sudden horror of war and disaster, and about the cruelty of one species to another – well, it’s delivered with such wit, creativity and love that it leaves us in no doubt that human beings can create a better world for both children and piglets, if only they choose to do so. Rating: * * * *
"Reppe’s design is meticulous and clever" Thom Dibdin, The Stage
Mary Brennan, The Herald At first, it's like Through The Keyhole.
You walk into someone's home and - this will beguile adults, as well as the 7+ target audience - nosy around. Open drawers, look into the fridge (even though it says 'beware' on the door). That is when it suddenly edges into CSI territory. Because what is in the fridge, and the other little rooms, whispers of stuff we all fear. No-one's home. There are signs of a recent struggle: the dinner table toppled mid-meal, chaos in the bathroom, desperate writing on the wall. Was it kidnap? Burglary gone wrong? Murder??? As our unseen guide gently coaxes us through this cunningly detailed installation-drama, there are clues a-plenty that we are following in the plotline of The Three Little Pigs, a tale most youngsters will know from Shrek films, if not from nursery lore. Straw, sticks and bricks are the essential fabric of the irresistibly quirky design. Even the music score joins in the witty hinting, with tracks that include Hungry Like A Wolf. Yet co-creators Shone Reppe and Andy Manley have opened up the story so that the little piggies' bid for independence, and the unprovoked fate that preys on them, can run in any direction your own imagination chooses. Older heads will perhaps have genocide purges in mind, youngsters will bring their own responses to the funny-yet-scary scenario that ends with us walking out of the bunker-like brick house, free to go where we please. Did any piggy do the same? Afterwards, images and atmospheres continue to raise tantalising questions. HUFF really has pushed the boundaries of children's theatre with consummate flair and a willingness to take risks.
Shona Reppe (Puppets) is a limited company registered in Scotland and recognised as a Scottish Charity, Company number 267273. Charity Number SC035750 Registered Office: Catherine Wheels, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, EH21 6AF, Producer/Administrative Support: Louise Gilmour Wills