Into The Woods
Into The Woods at The Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, London
“a bold and adventurous take on a Sondheim beauty”
There are seventeen in the cast, five in the band. The stage is in the round. The wood is actually made of wood. The music and lyrics are classic Sondheim… Ambitious to tackle such a large production - and director Tim McArthur just keeps this show under control.
[Into The Woods ensemble]
The story does have a modern twist. The mixing of all the well-known fairy tale characters is brilliant anyway, but this production has influences of the UK today. Jack and his mother are superb characters straight from an episode of Jeremy Kyle. In fact, the part of Jack’s mother can be immensely forgettable - but not Madeleine MacMahon’s interpretation. Jack himself, played by Jamie O’Donnell is innocent, dumb and lovable in equal quantities.
[Jack’s Mother condescending her son, Jack]
The leading triumvirate that drive the plot along are The Witch (played at the start as a bag-lady by Michele Moran) and the two Bakers: Tim McArthur and Jo Wickham.
[The Witch has words with The Baker, as his Wife looks on]
In these demanding roles, Jo Wickham shone as the Baker’s Wife. She wants a child and her journey is a tough one - full of ups and downs (literally, when you include the ladders!) and is thrilling to watch. Abigail Carter-Simpson’s Cinderella is, likewise, a key character in the story and she also excels in the role.
Coming from a household very much in The Only Way Is Essex genre, she meets the Prince and discovers his world is Made In Chelsea. She approves of neither.
Overall, I think the best element of the show is the setting itself - the clash not just of fairy tales but of class and accents. The set (all wood, of course) is a rambling forest of ladders and pallets and boxes designed by Joana Dias.
[The bag lady Witch shows her true colours]
This rambling, annoyingly, comes across in the whole feel of the show. There are some stunning solo performances but the whole is a little blurred. The witch isn’t scary enough, the jokes aren’t funny enough, the loss isn’t painful enough. Needing a little more focus and smoother group choreography, this intriguing interpretation of Into The Woods doesn’t quite hit the mark. It is still a bold and adventurous take on a Sondheim beauty.
Photography: David Ovenden
Venue: Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH
Running: Until Saturday 24th June 2018 at 7.30pm
(no Monday performances)
Sunday Matinees at 3.30pm
Running Time: 2hr40m (with an interval)
Tickets: £15 - £26
www.thecockpit.org.uk - 020 7258 2925
Twitter: @allstarpro, @TheWoods2018, #Woods2018
Producers: All Star Productions and Trilby Productions
Director: Tim McArthur
Musical Director: Aaron Clingham
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: James Lapine
Set Design: Joana Dias