In the famous fairy tale The Three Little Pigs, a wicked wolf huffed and puffed, but it was at last year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown that a new version of the story blew full houses away, writes Helen Herimbi

Four. That is the number of shows that were completely sold out when The Pink Couch theatre company staged The Three Little Pigs at the National Arts Festival last year.

That single-digit number may not seem like a big deal if you don’t consider that this is a new production by a young company, or that the run was only five shows long. But Albert Pretorius – who co-owns The Pink Couch, and stars alongside Rob van Vuuren and James Cairns – calls it nothing short of amazing.

“It’s really amazing,” Pretorius says between rehearsals. “We were so lucky that we did really well in Grahamstown. We only had five shows and four of those were sold out. Then the World Fringe Alliance – which watches plays all over the world and then picks the shows they like to be staged in different parts of the world – liked it too.”

As a result of being enjoyed by this alliance, after its Baxter Theatre run The Three Little Pigs will also be staged in New York, Perth and Amsterdam this year. Following that, says Pretorius, the team will attempt to take the play to London and other cities.

But what exactly is the idea behind remixing a beloved tale? When the the psychological thriller begins, “two out of three brothers have been killed”, explains Pretorius. “The wolf is suspected to be behind all of this, but the brother who is still alive gets the cops, which are pigs, to figure everything out. Here we have cats, dogs, bunnies and all sorts of animals because it’s set in an animal world and not necessarily a specific country, but you quickly realise it is South Africa.”

Some of the bits that give it away are hints at sagas surrounding Jackie Selebi, Brett Kebble and other scandalous stories that have made headlines in recent years.

“This is not about politics,” says Pretorius. “It’s more about corruption within the police force, nepotism and other things, while we still keep the fairy tale element.”

This interesting drama was conceptualised by director Tara Notcutt (also one of the owners of The Pink Couch), Pretorius, van Vuuren and Cairns, but the seed was initially planted by “Rob (who) actually came up with the idea of staging a twisted version of The Three Little Pigs. Then we all did a lot of research and read about Brett Kebble and Lolly Jackson and things just came together.”

Although Pretorius graciously laughs at a joke about playing a pig, loving bacon and therefore being what he eats, it’s clear that he and the team have put a lot of detail into the characters.

“The wolf gets a lot of slack,” he explains, “because he does the wrong things. Look at Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf had to be chopped open in order to get grandma out. In Three Little Pigs he has to be boiled. It’s traditionally a scary and mystical creature, but it ties in well with representing the violence in our country.”

• The Three Little Pigs is at the Golden Arrow Studio inside the Baxter Theatre until February 9. Tickets: R60 to R120 at the box office or Computicket.