Monday, 15 August 2016

'Into The Woods' at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Last week we went to see the new production of 'Into The Woods' at the Choccy Factory, possibly my most favouritist Sondheim show. I saw it at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre in the woods (an ideal location) a few years ago with Jenna Russell and Michael Xavier so any production has a lot to live up to. This version is imported from America with the Fiasco Theater's production and it is well worth seeing.

'Into The Woods' is the story of all those old tales bunched together so we have Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and more all wrapped up together and interacting. Prince Charming marries Cinderella and his brother marries Rapunzel. And, of course, there's a witch, because there's always a witch and she lives next door. The first half of the play tells us the stories we all know (well, mainly, although there are some twists) and the second half tells of the potential consequences. Is Cinderella happy after marrying her Prince Charming? What happens to Red Riding Hood after her ordeal in the forest? And how does Jack turn out in the end? Do they all live happily ever after? You'll have to get a ticket to find out for yourself.

I liked the staging, with its backdrop of ropes strung floor to ceiling to give an impression of being in a wood and there's wood everywhere (and a smell of wood in the air). The piano is the main prop on the stage, wheeled around while being played and various chairs and tables brought on every now and then, including a set of step ladders to be Rapunzel's tower. It all worked very well. I liked the stripped back keyboards hung around the stage to decorate it and the small chandeliers hanging on stage and out into the audience.

The cast is a mix of Americans from the Fiasco Theater and British home grown actors and they gel really well together giving us a very organic production, growing and weaving stories together. I particularly liked Harry Hepple as the Baker (and who I've seen in a few things over the last few years, including 'Pippin' at the Choccy Factory), Laura Tebbutt as the Baker's Wife who has a lovely voice as does Claire Karpen as Cinderella (who turns out to be a hero, obvs) and Emily Young as Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. Most of the actors played a couple of parts. I also liked Vanessa Reseland who brought a curious intensity to the role of the Witch who is so central to much of the action and leaves so heroically through the audience.

I enjoyed this production very much and so will you as soon as you buy tickets. And don't forget your magic beans.

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