Into the Hoods
Venue: Pleasance – Grand
Date: 23 Aug ’07
When I was in Edinburgh last year, this was the hottest ticket in town, both in general and amongst my friends from Shrewsbury School (well, we had been up two years before with the original Into the Woods). I couldn’t get a ticket, but all the reports I heard were that the show was amazing. This year, it’s back, and now it’s in the Pleasance Grand, so everyone can see it.
And yes, it pretty much was. Essentially, this show is a hip-hop ballet taking the plot of Act I of Into the Woods as the basis for a trip to a tower block, and meeting the characters who live there. The witch became the landlord, the giant a drug dealer, the baker and his wife two young kids, and so on. This process of translation was used to make a few witty little jokes to those who know the original show, but you wouldn’t miss much if you knew nothing of the plot’s origins.
Technically, the show was excellent. The dance was consistently impressive and the choreography relatively unrepetitive and inventive, the soundtrack (and it probably does have to be called that) was varied and interesting. A video wall projected on a white cloth at the back was used to particularly innovative effect, both in playing with dimensions and the contextualisation of movements on stage, and as a method of integrating entrances into the scenery. All the soloist dancers were well cast and very polished. The costumes were simple and very effective. The lighting was very slick, making a feature of itself where it added to the action, making itself unobtrusive where it didn’t.
If I have any reservation, it is that the concept of the show was inherently pretty shallow. Into the Woods is a show all about asking “what happens after Happy Ever After?”, which comes at the end of Act I, and about highlighting the deficiencies of a story which takes such a definitive resolution. So in taking only Act I as its inspiration here, Into the Hoods is implicitly acknowledging that really, it hasn’t got a lot to say; it is no more than a fairy tale, when the show that lends it a basic structure aspires to more.
None of that can take away, however, from the fact that it is a very impressive show, and in terms of its implementation and format, it does indeed bring some new stuff to the table.