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Nina Hajiyianni, director of The Unity Theatre's production of Little Red & The Big Bad Wolf

by Chris High. Published Sun 18 Dec 2016 12:00, last updated: 18/12/16
(c) Brian Roberts
(c) Brian Roberts

The Unity Theatre is the Liverpool home of traditional Christmas stories told as close to being as they were intended as possible. This might make them a little ‘darker’ at times than the usual “he’s behind you”, slapstick pantomime, but nevertheless The Unity, as always, provides a fabulously entertaining storytelling feast.

This year, the theatre is hosting Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf and has been described as ‘lovably scary storytelling’ by Nigel Smith of the Guardian newspaper. Here Nina Hajiyianni – Artistic Director of Action Transport Theatre and director of the show – talks to Chris High.

How has the process been getting Little Red to The Unity stage?

It’s been really creatively rewarding, largely because of our collaborative approach which means we make up material in the rehearsal room with the actors, writer and to some extent the composer (though some of the songs because of the urgency of time are pre written based on what we have agreed can be sung bits of the story) Devising work in this way allows us to be really economical with language and test what we can show visually, which is as much of the story as possible. Because music, words and action are all equal we are able to create an engaging theatre style.

Why did you choose the story of Little Red Riding Hood?

Because we loved the premise of having to stay on a path to be safe and the inevitability that someone (Little Red) would break that rule. This seems to be a truth that all children instinctively understand and know about. It’s got fun and danger in it, a good mix.

The Unity Christmas show has a reputation for being a little darker. Is Little Red a more authentic telling of the story?

Children like being a bit scared when it comes to storytelling, and theatre is a safe way to go to darker places, as long as there is some form of resolution. I think we do a disservice by creating theatre experiences for children and families which don’t have jeopardy or obstacles that need to be overcome. That’s the whole point of theatre (you could argue). The trick is getting the balance of scary, fun and also for us some social comment which makes you question or think in a new way.

As director, what has been the most challenging aspect of bringing the tale to life in a different way?

The biggest challenge always seems to be having enough time to realise all the theatrical ideas. For Little Red we wanted to create a bit of magic around how we move the trees which make up part of the set in order to create different forest environments along with a path that appears as Little Red goes on her way. Both these visual ideas needed time to test and we were always having to play catch up with learning music and lines!

How did you initially become involved in theatre?

School plays and then youth theatre. I think the first thing I might have been involved in was a nativity assembly at primary school. I really want to do a version of the nativity with the 3 wise ‘men’ as fools who keep getting lost!

How did you become involved with Action Transport Theatre and how can others become involved with the company?

Action Transport Theatre (ATT) is based in Ellesmere Port, I first joined the company in 2008 when they were looking for an associate director. We run a lot of project activity for local young people and collaborate with writers and artists to make professional new work, if anyone is interesting in working with us, they should just drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you! www.actiontransporttheatre.org

What can an audience expect from Little Red and The Big Bad Wolf?

Really good storytelling (which gets a bit scary) and some fabulous songs. Oh, and a howling competition…

What’s next for you and Action Transport Theatre?

We will be touring our production ‘ Happily Ever After’ in April next year which is based on the children’s book King and King by Linda da Haan and Stern Niljad, The show is a dance-theatre production which tells the fairytale story of a prince who falls in love and marries another prince - it’s lots of fun and audiences seem to love it so we are looking forward to taking it on national tour.

Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf runs at The Unity Theatre until January 7th. For Tickets and information:Telephone: 0151 709 4988 OR
https://www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk/whats-on/little-red-and-the-big-bad-wolf.html



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