Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Way Through The Woods - Pleasance Theatre Islington

The Way Through The Woods
Writer: Imogen Commander

Reviewer: Honour Bayes

Ok so it’s a cheap shot but I just can’t resist – this show really lost its way through the woods. Careering between overplayed performances and a flimsy text, the supposedly magical The Way Through The Woods is depressingly mundane.

A brother and sister are reunited at their father’s funeral after 15 years separation; cue the awkward sibling dialogue and obligatory fight. But their world is literally turned upside down as the vegetation and animals of The Wet Woods begin to intrude and they are once more separated, with our heroine on an adventure to rescue her brother. Whilst she meets a cornucopia of strangely predictable characters, he has been captured by The Wax Moth, a weird mix of The Snow Queen and the animal hating Cruella Deville, who is played in wonderfully over-the-top fashion (the only time this style is fitting and even then it begins to grate) and is clearly the ‘baddie’.

Taking strong inspiration from Rudyard Kipling, the show is based after a book of short stories of the same name, The Way Through The Woods sadly lacks any inspiration of its own, relying instead on stereotypes, clichés and big dollops of exposition to drag it along. Whilst it is true that there are some interesting physical sequences which sashay each scene into the next, these too seem to be laboured and do nothing to save the structure from being stolid and laden. To add insult to injury the distinctly florid text, which appears to be so poetic so as to try and lend the entire affair some fairytale credibility, just sounds cumbersome.

So sadly pretty dire stuff but there is a glimmer of hope with the design by James Perkins, Martina Trottmann and Sally Ferguson being the one redeeming feature. With a clever topsy turvey buffet table which doubles as a mountain slope when upside down and some stunning costumes, in particular the Wax Moth’s, which really is ingenious and beautifully crafted, the aesthetic of this piece goes some way to keeping the polite interest of this flagging audience piqued.

But this is not enough to rescue production and with a predictable plot, clunky dialogue, melodramatic performances and very little else it is extremely hard to think kindly on such a show. Cilgwyn Theatre Company really are going to have to work much harder if they want to lift this lost and wayward performance from mediocrity and into the imaginative genius of it’s muse.

Runs until Saturday 10 October @ 7.30pm
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