Into The Woods

into the woods
Into The Woods at Cockpit Theatre

I’ll be upfront about this from the start. I adore Into the Woods, it is my favourite work of Sondheim’s and having been in a production of it I know it fairly well. I was therefore thrilled to hear that it was coming back to London and even more pleased when I was asked to review it.

Photo credit: David Ovenden

Into The Woods tells of the Baker and his wife who long for nothing more than to have a baby. However the Witch who lives next door has cursed the family and made it a barren one. In order for the Witch to release this curse she tells them they must find a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and the slipper as pure as gold. This is where Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella come in as they are perused by the Baker and his wife for the items they can provide. However whilst Act 1 is a fairy tale and they all appear to live happy ever after, Act 2 takes a darker twist when the Giants wife from the top of the Beanstalk comes to take her revenge.

In All Star’s production, directed by Tim McArthur a fresh and updated approach it taken. The stepsisters are straight out of TOWIE, Red Riding Hood wears a red hoodie, the Princes are like characters from Made in Chelsea and Jack appears to have been born to a teenage mother. This adds an extra layer of fun and entertainment, reimagining these familiar fairy tale characters as those we see on a daily basis.

The show is performed in the round with a basic but atmospheric and clever set designed by Joana Dias. It was simply made out of ladders and wooden pallets. Wood chip lines the floor and in one corner there is a tower. This set enabled the show to keep moving whilst providing many different acting areas, cubby holes and levels. I would have however liked to have seen a little more done with the ladders as often they appeared just to be there for effect rather than any practical use. The lighting design also helped ensure that our focus was where it needed to be at appropriate times.

As we were in the round and in a small venue I did wonder about the use of microphones. When singing as a company the balance of voices wasn’t always equal and I felt that the use of microphones was often excessive, especially as the band was only 5 piece and situated away from the audience.

Overall the performances were strong and driven by character. Jordan Michael Todd took the role of the Narrator and had a boyish charm about him, appearing excitable about the whole adventure. Tim McArthur and Jo Wickham took on the roles of the Baker and his Wife to great effect. They came across as immensely ordinary. I mean this as a compliment as surrounded by fairy tale characters these parts can often get swept up in the fantasy but in order for the show to work they must come across as relatable, which they did.

I would have however liked a little more from Ashley Daniel’s as Cinderella’s Prince and Michael Duke as Rapunzel’s Prince, especially during their duet, Agony. This needed to be hammed up further to really get the laughs the lyrics deserve. I did however enjoy their characters overall, full of ‘yah’ and secret handshakes.

Due to the focus on the character I did find that on occasion this took importance over the vocal performances which is a shame as the show is packed full of beautiful and intricate music. Whilst it was never glaringly wrong it just felt a bit under sung at times.

Overall Into The Woods at the Cockpit was a clever reimagining of one of Sondheim’s finest works which helped add to the humour of this musical. I would certainly recommend this to both Into The Woods fans and those that have never seen this show before.

Into the Woods plays at the Cockpit Theatre until the 24th June. Visit their website for more info.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Tartuffe, Strictly Ballroom and Hamilton. 

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