Into the Woods

JOSH MARKS is thrilled by this musical end to the term.

ADC into the woods josh marks sondheim

ADC Theatre, 7.45 PM, March 12th-15th, £10/8.

It’s not often that, walking home from an ADC main-show, most of Sidney St is whistling and singing the numbers they’ve just heard. Okay granted, not every ADC main-show is a musical, but as the audience shuffled back up Jesus Lane, there was some palpable sense that each and every spectator had been treated to a sumptuous feast of dynamism, art and music.

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It wasn’t a sell-out, unfortunately. It may be the last-Wednesday-Cindies-of-term excuse, or just some post-Lent lethargy. The actors, however, either didn’t notice the few empty seats, or didn’t care. From the very first scene they are energetic, as engaging as anyone would be if they had to compete amongst giants and witches for a spotlight. Dialogue within musical numbers is snappy and witty, and even the narrator – Ben Glassberg – is drawn into the fantasy with us, leaving behind him his homely cuppa and blanket.

Rhianna Frost’s performance as Jack’s mother is exemplary (and I’m not just saying that because her programme bio says she gives ‘very nice hugs’). Without ever stealing the fore, Frost seems to drive the show forward whenever on stage. She resounds with us, somebody real, reasonable almost, while demonstrating boundless energy and wonderful timing.

Alongside her, Joey Akubeze is captivating and just flirty enough as the wolf, whilst Lily Grieve succeeds with aplomb in creating two recognisable characters – for the young and old witch – without ever appearing to separate them. Strangely, though, it is the on-stage brothers (Quintin Beer and Will Flinn) that you just cannot take your eyes off. Every flinch for them is an opportunity for laughs.

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Another mention must go to the set, a revolving masterpiece that transports the audience to somewhere far, far away. It becomes as important, if not more so, than any character, but also provides the fuel for several gags. Phoebe Hill should get a mention for her hilarious puppets (used to perfection and never for cheap laughs), yet even these pale in comparison to the interactive set. In short, it was stunning, and its designers deserve as many plaudits and curtain calls as the actors who use it as their playground.

The cast is aided with a wonderful script (gems such as “a giant is like us… but bigger”) yet exceeds expectations by creating characters that are familiar enough to be recognised, but vibrant enough to be called their own. The big chorus numbers are sublimely executed too, thanks in part to the tireless precision of Oli Rew on the keys, and the support he receives from an equally flawless band.

And even then the programme is excellent, the posters lively, the costumes fantastic, the trailer original. The chain has no weak link. This production is rich at every possible level: a complete and utter joy.