Wolves of Willoughby Chase


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

By Joan Aitken, adapted by Ross Tunney


Please read carefully all the details, in particular rehearsal and performance dates. If you are unsure whether unavailability will be an issue please check first by emailing jez.pike@maddermarket.org

Director: Jez Pike    Production Dates:  Sat 16th – Sun 31st December. 19 performances including 4 weekday matinees.

Rehearsal Dates:  From 30th October. 4-5 rehearsals a week. Potentially to include some weekend rehearsals, though this can be negotiated.


Audition Dates: 

1st round:

Option A: Wed 13th Sept (6.30-9.30pm)

Option B:  Fri 15th Sept (6.30-9.30pm)

Option C: Sun 17th Sept (10.30am-1pm)

2nd round

Option A: Tues 19th Sept (6.30-9.30pm)

Option B: Sun 23rd Sept (10.30am-1pm)


Please note all auditionees must in principle be able to attend one of the recall dates.

If you are absolutely not able to make an audition date but want to be seen please still email jez.pike@maddermarket.org


How to sign-up:This can be done either via email or by coming into the theatre office.


Coming in to the theatre: Sign-up on the sheet specifying which part you would like to be considered for. Choose your preferred first round audition date, and then you will be

contacted with an allotted time slot. Extracts to prepare for each part can be collected from the office. A reading copy of the play will also be available.


By email: Email jez.pike@maddermarket.org specifying all of the following information:

‘Name’ ‘Phone number’ ‘Email address’ ‘Which part’s you would like to audition for’ and ‘Preferred first round audition date’. Please also specify whether you would like to be emailed a scanned copy of the relevant extract and/or the script. If you don’t specify these requests in your emailed it will be assumed you are collecting hard copies from the office. 


Format of auditions: Extracts provided in advance. First round will consist of one-to-one reading with the director. Recalls will consist of reading extracts in pairs or small groups and some potential ‘workshop’-style activities.


About the Play

Gripping contemporary stage adaptation of Joan Aitken’s celebrated children’s book. A family show with a real narrative, memorable characters and a darker edge.

Set in an alternative history of England, it is the story of two brave and determined girls as they fight against ferocious, wolves, snowy wastelands and their exceptionally evil guardian Miss Slighcarp. The opening of the Channel Tunnel has led to dangerous wolves roaming Britain, but the wild beasts are not the only evil that Bonnie, Sylvia and their friend Simon the Goose-boy must overcome. The story is full of vivid characters, all of whom have a certain ‘Dickensian’ scale and are often combination of the deliciously devious and the slightly absurd.

About the Production

The production will embrace the gothic feel of the story, set as it is in a world that’s a blend of Victorian industrial squalor and remote barren moors. Costume and design will take its cue from the Steampunk style. The adaptation is a deft, magical and often witty telling of cracking story and the production will seek to create a generous ensemble playing-style in which actors are likely to multi-role-play and help to create the world of the play through imaginative means.

The script includes the option of songs which help tell the story of the Bonnie and Sylvia as they travel across England. Any experience of or enthusiasm for simple singing is very welcome, but not at all essential. This will be discussed at the audition.

Cast Breakdown

Please note that all ‘child roles’ will be cast from actors 18 years and above.

Cast size between 5 and 8. Exact approach to assigning the roles, many of whom are small cameo parts will be dependent on auditions. For the purposes of the first round you are asked to consider reading for the following lines of parts. These do not cover all the characters that appear and should you be requested for a recall audition you will asked to read for further parts.


Please note that whilst exact requirements can be negotiated it is advisable that auditionees be prepared for a production style that is likely to require some physical stamina and dexterity.

Miss Slighcarp.Playing age 35-60. INTEREST IS WELCOME FROM BOTH MALE AND FEMALE ACTORS. A little reminiscent of Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, Slighcarp is pure evil through and through. She devises the masterplan to dupe Sir Willoughby out of his house and fortune, kill him and his wife off for good measure and turn the manor into a workhouse. She is arched, vain, short-tempered and driven principally by greed. Along the way she takes a genuine pleasure in punishing small children as a fake governess.

Mrs Brisket.Playing age 35-60. INTEREST IS WELCOME FROM BOTH MALE AND FEMALE ACTORSAn ally of Miss Slighcarp (the sledge hammer to Slighcarp’s stiletto dagger), Mrs Briskett runs the orphanage (or rather workhouse) that Bonnie and Slyvia are banished to. She is a large, lazy, stupidly cruel women who is also an incorrigible flirt with a high regard for her own ‘prowess’ which is entirely undeserved. She is also obsessed with cheese and manages to fool a visiting ‘Ofsted’ inspector to her school by having the children recite the ‘Cheese alphabet’, having swiftly removed all the devious punishment ‘devices’ just in time.

Bonnie Green.Female. Playing age 18-25 (Character age approximately 11). Daughter of Sir Willoughby and Lady Willoughby, whose family home is Willoughby Chase, an ancient gothic pile somewhere in the north of England. Bonnie is adventurous, confident and possesses a fiery temper. She has lived a free, slightly spoiled and fairly ‘boyish’ existence in the countryside until Miss Slighcarp tries unsuccessfully to make her obedient. Full of energy and natural curiosity, Bonnie has an infectious spirit that even the worst governess can’t dampen.

Slyvia Green.Female. Playing age 18-25 (Character age approximately 11). Cousin of Bonnie, she comes to stay with her at Willoughby Chase followed the death of her father and the illness and financial plight or her mother. Used to a sheltered life, Sylvia is initially fragile and easily scared. The harshness of Mrs Brisket’s orphanage is almost too much for her. Yet though always more naturally ‘ladylike’ than Bonnie, Slyvia soon throws herself into adventure and proves to be a quietly determined and loyal companion.

Simon the Goose-Boy /James.Male. Playing age 18-30. Simon is a local teenager who lives on his own in the caves below Willoughby Chase, having once escaped a cruel farmer who he was apprentice to. He now lives an ‘off-the-grid’ life; disappearing back into the landscape as quickly as he appears and making do by selling his geese in London. He is a very useful friend to Bonnie and Syliva and rescues them on two occasions. Resourceful, humble, direct and with a hidden artistic talent Simon is a kind of folk figure in a story about greed vs natural goodness. / James is a loyal servant at Willougby Chase who has known Bonnie all her life and continues to do his best to protect her despite the cunning of his adversaries. An all-round ‘good egg’, he manages to kid Miss Slighcarp that he is sufficiently sullen and evil to be allowed to stay on when all the other servants have been dismissed.

Chorus. Playing age mid-twenties and above. INTEREST IS WELCOME FROM BOTH MALE AND FEMALE ACTORS. The approach to the chorus which is recurring throughout the play can be very flexible. The production is therefore open to interest from a wide-range of actors who might approach the part in quite contrasting ways. Interpretations might include a traditional benevolent storyteller, a more ambiguous figure, both a predominantly still and a movement-based characterization and/or an approach which ties in the potential for music and singing in the play. All and any others are of interest and equally valid. The only definite requirements are a strong stage presence, an ability of connect directly with an audience and a strong ability to carry and convey text full of imagery and wonder.

Josiah Grimshaw & Sir Willoughby.Male. Playing age Mid 30’s-50’s. Grimshaw is Miss Slighcarp’s partner in crime; a thoroughly immoral legal clerk who is a serial forger, generally rum chap and something of a fool. He plays the jolly type well however and initially comes across as harmless. He is greedy in all things, loves to talk and lacks the guile of Slighcarp’s evil. / Sir Willoughby is the larger-than-life Lord of Willoughby Chase who appears at the beginning and end of the play. In between he is believed lost at sea thanks to the machinations of Miss Slighcarp. A minor Northern aristocrat of the old paternal school he is kindly and generous to his servants and dutiful to his estate. He is an amiable blunderbuss; loud, energetic and openly loving.