Friday, 16 January 2009

Into the Woods, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Into the Woods
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: James Lapine
Director: Racky Plews
Reviewer: John Roberts

Sondheim and Lapine’s musical tells the story of a childless baker and his wife, who finding out that a curse was placed upon them to keep them barren, set off Into the Woods to find the four things the Wicked Witch needs to un-break the spell. Whilst in the woods we encounter several familiar faces from some of the best loved fairytales but this is where any familiarities end, instead we are cleverly shown the unpleasant character traits that these well known characters possess, and in the end, their greed for wanting more in life than they have is inevitably each of their downfalls.

Racky Plews directs this small revival with real heart and character far more so than the recent lavish and overly expensive production at the Royal Opera House. Plews gives this production a real comedic flair with some splendid touches, the bird on the flute is one perfect example, helped along the way with some creative and ingenious use of video projection (designed by Martin Walton) throughout the performance.

A simple but hugely atmospheric set by Stephie Hoyle, who after seeing her set of Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi you know you will get a design that has been well thought out and true to the nature of the piece, and that’s just what you get with the set of Into the Woods with subtly atmospheric lighting by Howard Hudson this show is a visual treat.

Commanding the stage in this production is Dominic Brewer (Baker) and Rachel Bingham (Bakers Wife) who really steal the show as the childless couple, belting out their songs with a powerful and emotional resonance. Lauren Appleby’s Red Riding Hood is a simple joy to watch and brings a highly energised and slightly menacing performance, with other notable turn coming from Daniel Summers as the simple but ever so endearing Jack.

If one was to find fault with this production it would be the use of the cast playing instruments on stage, this was never fully explored unlike The Watermills production of recent West End production of Sunset Boulevard, but this is a small niggle in what otherwise is a splendid production

One would suggest that if you are looking for a production to see over the next two weeks then book yourself a ticket to this production, it will take you a long time to find a musical in the London that has this much magic and charm.

Photos by Mitzi de Margary
Into the Woods runs at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 1st Feb 2009
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