This production of Into the Woods at the Cockpit Theatre brings it into the 21st century, not a strictly necessary move
“To have, to wed, to get, to save, to kill, to keep, to go to the festival”
One of the main reasons that fairytales have endured as long as they have is that they are timeless, their messages recited as-is at bedsides since time immemorial. Recognising this, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods gives us a first half which takes us deep into this enchanted world as we know it and waiting until after the interval to show us what happens after happy ever after.
So the notion of updating the show to a specifically 21st-century context is an intriguing one, as director Tim McArthur draws in influences such as The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Rab C Nesbitt. On the one hand, it offers a fresh take on well-known characters; on the other, it also provides a distracting layer onto characters that barely need it. The result is a well-performed interpretation that rarely feels essential. Continue reading “Review: Into the Woods, Cockpit Theatre”
“Carelessness and being free of care,
Aren’t they the same?”
Since its inception in 1999, Stephen Sondheim’s Road Show – with book by John Weidman – has undergone considerable rehabilitation, not least three title changes, and so has rarely been seen on this side of the Atlantic. John Doyle transferred his Off-Broadway production to the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2011 for its European premiere but this is the first UK revival since then, director Phil Willmott continuing a mini-residency at the Union after last month’s fine Fear and Misery of the Third Reich.
But where the episodic nature of Brecht’s storytelling worked well, Road Show is less successful in stringing together its vignettes of chasing the American Dream into something more affectingly substantial. The show follows the contrasting but always connected lives of brothers Wilson and Addison Meisner (per the programme) as they seek to parlay guts and gumption into something more, taking unsuspecting benefactors, love interests and easy marks along for the ride. Continue reading “Review: Road Show, Union Theatre”
“One can’t always remain a stranger”
Albert Camus may be better known as a philosopher and author than as a playwright so it is a rare opportunity that presents itself to catch his play Cross Purpose (Le Malentendu) in the Sunday/Monday slot at Islington’s King’s Head Theatre pub. A mother and daughter eke out a joyless existence, running a glum guesthouse somewhere in Central Europe and murdering their rich guests, but when their next victim turns out to be a man with a connection to them both, tragic consequences ensue.
Stuart Gilbert’s translation captures something of the philosophical weight of Camus’ writing, his exploration of the way life is cruel to anyone no matter how intrinsically good or evil they may be, but often does so in a rather cumbersome manner. There’s an archness to the text which also possesses a vein of mordant humour, both of which prove effective in summoning the strangeness of this world. But the turn of phrase occasionally jars in its awkwardness and not all the actors manage to surmount this challenge. Continue reading “Review: Cross Purpose, King’s Head Theatre”