Out the woods, onto the stage

Some of the cast members for The Woods are (from left) Robert Shenton, Llewellyn Van Der Berg, Michaela Faria- Richards, Mike Fenn and Alex Devilliers.
Some of the cast members for The Woods are (from left) Robert Shenton, Llewellyn Van Der Berg, Michaela Faria- Richards, Mike Fenn and Alex Devilliers.

Any Roald Dahl fan will tell you that his take on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales are interesting, to say the least.

Theatre makers Michaela Faria-Richards and Robert Shenton have combined Dahl’s absurd twists with the dark wit of Lemony Snicket to create a new “deliciously dark” version of the classic Grimm tale Little Red Riding Hood.

Dahl’s version is strange enough, ending with Red Riding Hood acquiring a wolf skin coat. For The Woods, Michaela says: “We take it a smidge further”.

The writing pair originally wrote the piece to use as a fundraiser last year and will be staging it again this week for the Masque Theatre’s New Talent Festival.

This time round they’ve had more time to polish the production since the first take of The Woods had to be put together in just two weeks under tense circumstances.

They had just finished working on Romeo and Juliet: Sort of when Michaela heard of a cancer patient in need of financial assistance and offered to help.

With an idea about wanting to play with classic fairy tales, she “tearfully” turned to Robert to help with a script after realising what she’d got herself into. Taking inspiration from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, Robert says “I decided to take Red Riding Hood, put our own spin on it and write entirely in prose.”

He was on a conference in Johannesburg though and wrote from his hotel room at all hours of the night, between sending stressed out messages to his director. “I was literally dreaming in rhymes.”

He arrived back in Cape Town a week and a half later, but The Woods still needed an ending and a cast. The pair says the experience was a serious test of their friendship. “I was this close to moving to Canada,” Robert jokes.

In the end, The Woods ran for two nights at The Galloway Theatre, raising R16 000, before Michaela and Robert decided to take a break for a year or so... until Michaela saw an advert for the New Talent Festival.

She’s very excited about the cast for this run. The Woods now features the “cute and feisty” Katie Swanepoel as Red, Robert as the “slimy” wolf and the “amazing” Mike Fenn as the lumberjack. “He does this ‘D’oh’, Matthew McConaughey kind of thing. He’s really funny,” Michaela muses.

Llewellyn Van Der Berg and Ryan Devilliers are the Grimm brothers with Alex Devilliers as the granny.

Michaela is equally excited about the prospect of performing at the beautiful Masque Theatre where they’ll be playing with stunning lighting a new set. “It’s very exciting to do it for such a big theatre,” Robert says.

The Woods will be on stage on Wednesday and Saturday, but it joins three other original productions for the festival which runs this week. “There are going to be so many talented people who are going to be performing at this festival,” Michaela says. “The tickets are so dirt cheap. Never in your life have you seen quality work for 60 bucks.”

She points out The Masque does a good job of providing a platform for newcomers to the industry and says the festival offers an entertaining and affordable night out.

Also on the festival line up are the improvised one-hander Bucket List and a double bill from Massive Productions: Inkungu ngaphantsi kweNtaba (Cache underneath the Mountain) and ISIKO (The Tradition). This year will also feature dance pieces, namely the double bill Misodzi / Tears and Tapera Baba, along with the theatrical exhibition Colovr.

The Woods will be back at The Galloway Theatre on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 February, before moving to Franschhoek later in the year. V For more information about The Woods visit the STBSouthAfrica Facebook page. For more about the Talent Festival, tickets and the festival line up, visit www.masquetheatre.co.za, call 021 788 1898 or email bookings@masquetheatre.co.za.

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