INTO THE WOODS | London, Menier

Following rave reviews in New York and the full support of His Majesty himself (Stephen Sondheim), theatre company Fiasco have finally brought their ingenious reinvention of this musical theatre classic to London. Every member of Fiasco was remarkably energised from start to finish, full of the joy of storytelling. Through their playful and joyous ensemble, every moment fizzed with energy.
The writing demands a constant interaction with the audience, asking them to question the fairytale archetypes they see on stage, which become more and more exposed as the story progresses and we witness the true nature of “happy ever after”. Fiasco’s interpretation take this element one step further, demanding the audience imagine the scenery and costumes as well: Rapunzel’s hair is a yellow scarf, Jack’s milking cow is a bearded man wearing a cowbell, and the trees are ropes.
Where the writing already calls for a narrator, and for monologues sung in the second person (“and you know things now that you never knew before”), Fiasco amplifies this audience interaction by making every member of the ensemble a narrator, including the pianist, and making the monologues specifically address the audience, often stepping off the stage entirely.
Those who love the music of the original, composed for full orchestra (and beautifully realised in the recent Disney feature film), may be disappointed. Most of the show’s music is provided by one upright piano, usually centrestage and often used as part of the scenery. However whether you know the original music or not, everyone can enjoy the virtuosic and sensitive piano version of the score, joined frequently by other members of the company too on percussion, cello, horn, guitar and even toy piano.
The original multi-award winning Broadway production in 1987 was lavish in spectacle and scope, with an enormous cast and orchestra. Where Fiasco so bravely departs from this vision, it enables the audience to use their imaginations, just like you do when reading a fairytale. And for those with memories of reading fairytales, bring them along: you’re in for quite a profound experience.
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