Into The Woods – Review

Truro Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
reviewed by Jenni Balow

This grimmest of Grimm tales has a clear message – be very wary of what you wish for because life is no fairy tale.

Pantomime comes early to the Minack in the form of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack and the beanstalk, who all have their parts to play in a tortuous and unpleasant plot.

It was based on the nightmarish stories by the Brothers Grimm as told in a book by James Lapine and transformed into a musical by Stephen Sondheim, and on the opening night it felt like a giant’s step just a little too far for the ambitious Truro group, despite putting their hearts and soles into the footprints that lead into some pretty dark territory.

That said, musical director Peter Smith and his band conduct the 21 actors through their pieces wonderfully and the lighting and sound designers Ben Blaber and James Clarke back them up with good effects on a set cleverly designed by Tazmin Burr with director Charles Rimmer.

Birdsong beguiles us at the start of the tale, where pasties and pretzels decorate the home of the Baker and His Wife (Jules Eley and Tracey Hughes) who are directed into the hazardous woods by the Witch with a wonderful voice from next door (Laura Hargreaves) in a quest to find her some very strange items in return for their wish to have a baby.

Narrator (Maria Tiplady) describes the journey that inevitably finds Red Riding Hood, the feisty Lisa Topsey. Ian Kinver gives us a laugh as the lascivious howlin’ Wolf who relishes his role as a grandmother with beard and sharp sideburns.

Meanwhile Cinderella (Liesel Parris) is battling the spiteful stepmother (Sheila Collins) and sisters (Lydia Westbrook and Jo Downie). The two brother Princes (Peter Collett and Daniel Laley) have fun ‘galloping’ their hobby horses and being charming, and have a hair raising experience with Rapunzel (Tara Woollacott).

But things start to unravel when Jack (Daniel Hargreaves) and his Mum (Georgina Walkey) are forced to sell their precious cow Milky White in exchange for some magic beans. They fling the beans over the edge of the cliff, and finger-pointing recriminations begin, with the Mysterious Man (John Hughes) trying to pick up the pieces, amid some nasty incidents that involve eye pecking, evisceration and giant slaying.

A decent all round production, but in a play with so much toe-curling cruelty, it was hard to see the good for the trees.