REVIEW: INTO THE WOODS Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate

PUBLISHED: 10:26 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:47 07 September 2010

Four star rating The Baker and the Baker s Wife are desperate to have a child and enlist the help of an old crone who turns out to be a witch. She promises to help if they collect four items for her. You see, she i

INTO THE WOODS

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Highgate

HHHHI

The Baker and the Baker's Wife are desperate to have a child and enlist the help of an old crone who turns out to be a witch. She promises to help if they collect four items for her.

You see, she is really young and beautiful and is under a spell which can only be broken by these four objects - namely Cinderella's slipper, Red Riding Hood's cloak, a lock of Rapunzel's yellow hair and the milk white cow belonging to Jack of Beanstalk fame.

Stephen Sondheim has landed us in a Grimm brothers' Pantoland - and these characters all come to life in front of your eyes.

They also have dearest dreams to fulfil. Jack wants to be rich, Cinderella and Rapunzel are looking for their handsome Princes and Red Riding Hood craves adventure.

Luckily, there are a couple of Princes hovering about, bounding on and off and longing for romance, a sexy tap dancing wolf lying in wait for Red and, of course, Jack finds pots of gold on top of his beanstalk. All ends happily - but we are only half way through!

What happens after Happy Ever After? Can it be true that to get your heart's desire is the greatest punishment on earth? Defying Jack's remark that "if the end is right it justifies the beans", Sondheim is not averse to the occasional pun!

As always, the production values at the Gatehouse are stunning and there are fascinating and ingenious technical effects. Not the least being the virtual presence of Paul Nicholas throughout the play as the narrator - especially surprising as he is currently appearing as Hook in Wolverhampton.

Other characters appear on the backcloth and perform with themselves which makes it easy for doubling as in the two bounding princes who also play Uglies.

Mr and Mrs Baker are endearing principals and I fell in love with the idiotic Princes, the naughty Red and the glamorous witch.

Sadly, cuts are not allowed and it is 20 minutes too long.

Nevertheless congratulations to Racky Plews on her direction and the technical team. A true coup de theatre.

Until February 1.

Aline Waites


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