Most parents would be chuffed if their offspring had manners, brushed their teeth without being nagged and said pardon after burping. But not Little Wolf’s mum and dad; they would rather he practised his growling, told a few fibs and never brushed his teeth again. So they pack him off to Uncle Bigbad in the hope he will teach the polite nipper the art of Badness. Caroline Bishop went to the Hampstead to watch the transformation.
Armed only with a lunchbox of rabbit rolls and a dodgy map, poor Little Wolf (Ilan Goodman) has quite a trek on his hands to reach Uncle Bigbad’s notorious Cunning College. It is this journey which forms the first half of Anthony Clark’s adaptation of Ian Whybrow’s popular children’s book. Leaving his family – mum and dad Grizzle and Gripper, brother Smellybreff and cousin Yeller – Little Wolf delves further into the forest until he reaches the ominous door.
It is when Little Wolf encounters the dastardly, smelly, mice pie-loving Uncle Bigbad behind that door that this production really takes off. Grant Stimpson’s Uncle Bigbad is a lank-haired, mean, selfish and very bad wolf (whose voice bears a certain resemblance to Russell Brand), who doesn’t have the time (too busy sleeping) or the inclination to teach his nice nephew to be properly bad. But, determined to make his parents proud, Little Wolf teases, taunts and bribes his Uncle into teaching him the nine rules of Badness.
The many characters encountered by Little Wolf during his adventure include the foxy costumier Mister Twister, the ever-so jolly Scoutmaster and Red Goodie-Hoddie, a distant cousin of Red Riding Hood who may be even less bad than Little Wolf himself.
All these characters, and more, are created by the small cast – which, along with Stimpson and Goodman, includes Darrell Brockis, Ann Marcuson and Christopher Staines. Not only do they interchange characters faster than a swish of Little Wolf’s tail, but the musicians among them also help interpret Conor Linehan’s score, along with drummer Marc Parnell.
The children in the first night audience delighted in the show’s finale, in which Uncle Bigbad comes a cropper after one too many baked beans and Little Wolf learns that while it is good to be bad, it’s better to be slightly less bad than Bigbad.
Little Wolf’s Book Of Badness plays at the Hampstead until 5 January.