Into The Woods was the absolute perfect choice to welcome the world to Everyman’s Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016. There is something quite magical about watching theatre surrounded by the best of Sophia Gardens, and nature’s backdrop created an extra dimension to a wonderful performance.It was the Fairy Godmother (and her mum) who told me I had to see Into The Woods, seemingly my misspent youth meant it entirely passed me by, and as always the Fairy Godmother made the perfect recommendation. I got to escape the day to watch James Lapine’s book being brought to life by the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, through the talent of Everyman.The scene was set by Neil Parker as the Narrator, a wonderful dry humour kept the story light and he seamlessly kept the tale moving.
And from the Narrator taking the stage, the talent continued, I kept thinking I had a favourite character, but the performances were so strong, and so individual that each brought something entirely special to the stage.
Laura Philips as The Baker’s Wife and Matthew Preece as The Baker definitely shone, their chemistry on stage just seemed to work, and the performances were personable ensuring that they created the empathy needed from the audience to make it more than a comedy, more than a musical, they immersed you in their tale.And there were the characters which you couldn’t help but love. All from the three fairytales which entwine this story- the Witch (Jo Herco-Thomas) instantly enraptured me, the physical characterisation was consistently mesmerising, to the extent I was a little disappointed when her spell was lifted and the stage somehow didn’t feel as full, despite the continuation of a fantastic performance.Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and Cinderella were each fantastic. Such different characterisations. The bolshy Red was like a little Tasmanian Devil, against the wonderful naivety of Jack made for some great scenes. One of the downsides for me was the timing and duration. I imagine how much my 7-year-old would love the story and performance- maybe that’s me making her grow up too fast again. But I can’t help but think that this would be a great musical for older children, but starting at 8pm and finishing just shy of 11pm would mean it would have to be a weekend treat.
But with that in mind it is the perfect treat. Somehow, in the second half as night falls, the surrounding of Sophia Gardens just morph into production, the trees creating a sense of scale as the Giantess wreaks her havoc. And as the characters came together to make sense of what remained, the consideration of “Careful the things you say, children will listen” never seemed more pertinent as the curtain fell on the 23rd June 2016.
Into The Woods is playing at the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016 from 23rd June to the 2nd July with tickets available from Ticketsource.
The Festival continues with ‘Allo ‘Allo – 7th July-16th July, Romeo & Juliet – 21st July-30th July and Disney’s Peter Pan Jr – 23rd July- 30th July.
Photo Credit: Keith Stanbury.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are my own.