BWW Reviews: NECK OF THE WOODS, HOME, July 10 2015

BWW Reviews: NECK OF THE WOODS, HOME, July 10 2015

Manchester's newest arts centre, HOME's inaugural contribution to the Manchester International Festival is Douglas Gordon's reworking of Little Red Riding Hood told as a piece of performance art. Neck of the Woods shows off all the capabilities of HOME's intimate main theatre as it combines poetry, piano and design in this 80-minute fairy-tale.

Plunging the theatre into complete darkness, not even the fire exit signs remain, the opening of the show relies on the impressive HOME soundsystem and Melvyn Coote's immersive design to set the scene of a heavy forest and the felling of trees.

As the light begins to return we see the hands of a pianist, Helene Grimaud, as she begins to play the piano concertos of the great composers before Charlotte Rampling, as if light by a torch around a campfire begins, to share a haunting tale.

Neck of the Woods weaves together the Grimm fairy tale with nightmares and the trials of coming of age as Rampling's character recounts a story from her distant youth. Veronica Gonzalez Pina's script carefully invokes wolves and forests and the darkest of winters - although it isn't always the easiest to follow, particularly when it leaves the familiar territory of the source material.

The highlight of the evening is definitely the music. Grimaud is a talented performer, and with the piano taking centre stage this is as much a concert as it is a piece of theatre. Beautiful pieces from Rachmaninov, Lizst and Schuman fill the room as thick flurries of snow fall gently but relentlessly through the light.

Whilst visually impressive, this is a show that takes itself incredibly seriously, to its detriment. Its pace is at times glacially slow, and it lacks a sense of fun or irony that might endear it more to an audience. When the wolf is finally revealed, it feels more cuddly toy than wild animal - you almost expect Rampling to make it wave to the audience (which in fact she did after the curtain call), but there is appears to be no room for humour in what wants to be seen as serious art.

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