Review: ‘Into the Woods’

For its 2010 Winter Term production, the MTS opted to bring its fans Sondheim’s fantastical fairytale tapestry ‘Into the Woods’, which premiered in 1986 and has, despite being one of the Broadway maestro’s less well-known productions, maintained somewhat of a cult following ever since.

The show’s plot is intricate, and the audience’s intense concentration simply to keep up with the show’s opening 10 minutes – in which four separate fairytales are introduced and explained – was clear, with ears straining to catch every word. However, this was quickly superceded by over an hour of laughter, as the cast’s collection of great character actors got into full swing. Particular highlights included Maria Listra’s Witch’s gangster rap and Alisdair Hinton’s irreverent Narrator. Alexander Jeremy, as the slow-witted Jack, raised constant laughs with his bemused cow-chasing.

Richard ‘Trolly’ Robbins was the consummate MD and his orchestra, who had apparently only had two run-throughs of the show, were sharp and glitzy throughout.

The first act’s ‘happily ever after’ is subverted with a ‘to be continued!’, and we return after interval drinks to see the gloomy fallout of the fairytales’ unrealistic expectations.

The second half – although clever in its dark mirroring of the first – occasionally felt slightly drawn out; this is arguably down to the heavy onus the script places on the cast to consistently entertaining after their audience has already heard ‘The End’ (though the postmodern twists, such as killing the narrator, kept it refreshing).

The production was also generally slightly hampered by minor lighting and sound cue issues, as some characters were not illuminated or amplified for sections of dialogue, or levels meant it was drowned out by the background music (though, luckily, it seemed all the songs remained immune from this).

‘Into the Woods’ demands unwavering synchronicity from its orchestra, cast and technical team, and so these issues were ultimately forgivable, especially considering their successful portrayal of everything from Red Riding Hood spilling gorily from the Wolf’s stomach to an epic battle with a giant from the top of a tower (plus, it was the first show of five). Better an ambitious production than a bland one any day.

‘Into the Woods’ runs from Saturday 27th November until Tuesday 30th. Evening doors open at 6:30pm for a 7pm show. Tickets are £7 or £5 with an NUS card. You can buy tickets at the SU box office between 11:30 and 4pm. You can also buy your tickets on the door, but you are advised to arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Please note that the show contains strobe lighting and water based smoke.

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