Review: Into the Woods

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THERE’S often a tendency to big up young actors who make the transition from stage-school to semi-professional productions.

The Playhouse, Greenside Place

To do so where the Playhouse’s Stage Experience cast is concerned, however, would be patronising. A complex, fast-paced, 150-minute classic unsympathetic to any potential error, no-one among the 100-plus ensemble put a foot or word wrong.

Exploring the consequences of the Brothers Grimm’s most iconic characters, Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical focuses on what happens after the ‘happily ever after’.

Underpinned by an original story about a baker and his infertile wife, the post-fairytale lives of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack (of Beanstalk fame) all intertwine as the Witch’s curse is combated.

Make no mistake, though, this is no panto. It has humour in all the right places, yes, but it’s a deeply affecting tale that tugs at the heartstrings - and much harder than the Prince’s grip on Rapunzel’s hair.

Given the piece is ultimately about choices, responsibility and the child-parent relationship, it’s apt, too, that younger actors should tell the story. Cinderella can’t cope with the pressure of being married into the Royal Family, Jack becomes a victim of his own success, and Little Red Riding Hood literally takes the wrong path in life.

Rapunzel, however, after years of isolation in her tower, can’t find happiness no matter how hard she tries. The witch might not be nice, or good, either, but at least she’s honest. The baker and his wife, on the other hand, reflect the everyday person’s struggles and ambitions.

Backed by Sondheim’s enchanting score (orchestrated to pin-precision by Matthew Reeve), the music is another key character. Under Peter Corry’s canny direction and with Louise Ferrier’s choreography, Sondheim’s masterpiece also has the right amount of pathos, energy and subtlety to affect everyone who sees it.

Run ended