BEWARE, the wolves are out tonight at a venue near you.

But there’s no need to be scared as the forces of evil are cleverly outwitted in Russ Tunney’s theatrical adaptation of Joan Aiken’s novel, while strong storytelling stays centre stage.

Kirstie Davis’ fast paced winter show for Forest Forge is sprinkled with magic and has it all - fine acting from just five actors taking on all the roles, animated wolves, slow motion skating, live folk music and some very funny contemporary additions to the text.

Who could forget the sly Mr Grimshaw remarking “I love the smell of burning toys in the morning”, which raised many a smile on Wednesday night?

Clare Fraenkel’s Bonnie captures the headstrong exuberance of the heroine and complements perfectly Julie Rose Smith’s pale and less confident Sylvia. Playing children is never easy, but both actresses were believable without ever being cloying.

The skating sequence was truly breathtaking, and no mean feat on such a small stage .

Michael Cole’s transformation into the evil governess Miss Slighcarp is a revelation with just the right amount of sinister undertones, though I did rather like his depiction of the workhouse orphan Emma, who nearly stole the show.

Michael Magnet’s Mr Grimshaw (and many other people) was suitably seedy, though his funniest moment is in an early scene in the railway carriage producing his box of delights to the nervous Sylvia with a wolfish grin.

And not forgetting Thomas Gilbey as Simon the goose boy, who morphs seamlessly into the Good Samaritan servant, James. Simon the goose boy is one of those characters you never forget, with an almost mythical quality and it is Gilbey who gets the best folk tunes.

His rendition of the traditional song, Black is the Colour and his song, The Boy with no Roots, were truly memorable.

Well done to all involved with producing the Wolves of Willoughby Chase and for providing a delightful and unforgettable alternative to panto.

■ The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is suitable for all the family and is on tour until February 12. It is at Bramshaw village hall tomorrow and Ibsley Village Hall next Thursday. Full tour details available online at