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Re:View - 'Into The Woods'

Christopher Fowler
After A Midsummer Night's Dream this is probably the perfect show to stage in bucolic surroundings, and although this Regents Park Open Air Theatre production has minor faults - a couple of unsteady voices, occasional sound problems and the odd burst of heavy rain (unavoidable) - this new version of Stephen Sondheim's musical triumphs by bringing fresh clarity to a problematic play. One of the difficulties with 'Into The Woods', which crossbreeds several fairytales including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Red Riding Hood to provide modern morality lessons, has always been its lack of focus — too many characters, an over-complexity of plotting and a story that feels as if it has reached a conclusion at the end of the first half. Last night quite a few patrons left in the middle thinking it was over, but the first two issues have now been intelligently resolved. The narrator has become a schoolboy creating the characters's stories in his head with the aid of toys — a device which works triumphantly — and the focus is now more clearly on the childless baker and his wife. Best of all is the staging that makes use of the eerie rural setting, with platforms and staircases woven into the dark of the trees, and the spectacular arrival of an immense headlamp-eyed giantess (voiced by Dame Judi Dench), its great hands pushing the bushes apart. The cast add a resolutely British resonance to the piece with Northern working-class accents and preening, prancing princes who succeed in crossing Russell Brand with Rupert Everett. Their fresh version of 'Agony' is a showstopper. With crystal clear lyrics, lots of cleverly choreographed action and several new choruses expanding the much-loved score, this is the best trip into the woods we've had in years.
Posted in
London & The Arts

Comments

Patrick Marcel (not verified) Sat, 14/08/2010 - 17:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Only saw that on DVD and, yes, I took the full brunt of the "conclusion at the end of first act" effect.

Jennifer (not verified) Sun, 15/08/2010 - 13:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh, how I wish I'd been there...

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 20/08/2010 - 18:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Read this to a friend who is fond of both London and Into the Woods. He loved the review and went off to find his copy of the film (I don't know whether it is in videotape format or CD, but definitely not Blue ray or anything more recent.)