Theatre: Into the Woods (and out in the elements)
Once upon a time, I went to Regents Park Open Air Theatre and sat in the rain to watch HMS Pinafore. There was barely any audience, it was freezing and I got wet.
Five years passed and all had forgotten this incident. And then one Friday evening we got ready to see a preview of Into the Woods. It was raining and it was freezing. However we did not quite get so wet. This time we made use of seat covers and fashioned them into smart little outfits with bonnets. It may have looked like we had just been to the dry cleaners, but "dry cleaner chic" abounded on Friday night. It was awfully sensible but it made it a bit harder to applaud the many fine performances we saw (unless you punched out holes for the arms)...
And so under the weather, we started watching this fantastic show. There probably isn't a better setting than the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre for this show. The dampness and the chill added to the atmosphere and the set just blended into the park's trees. After initially being thrown by the narrator being a young boy (which makes sense at the end of the show), the cast emerge from the shadows of the woods and show off some very fine ensemble singing. You also had to admire the breath control involved in spitting out some awfully complex lyrics on a cold wet night where bronchitis surely was a possibility for all.
The show itself interweaves several of the fairy tales of the Brother's Grimm with an original story about a baker and his wife who wish to have a child. The second act continues from when everyone lives happily ever after taking a much darker turn. This production doesn't shy away from the more adult nature of the story (and carries a disclaimer of being unsuitable for young children). Sexual appetites, abandonment, death, murder, alcoholism and abandonment all feature. The last time I saw this musical I thought the second act went on forever (and the actors seemed forever out of time with the music), but this time around it seemed to be brisk with pacing like a roller coaster ride that once you were strapped in (or huddled up) it had no lulls or dry patches.
Special mention has to go to Hannah Waddingham as the witch who wears a fabulous costume and a sounds as if this role was written for her. The cast that also features Jenna Russell and Too Close to the Sun's Helen Dallimore. Why none of these ladies have solo albums is a mystery (and a lost marketing opportunity). This show runs until September 11 and is worth catching (with or without bronchitis). Just remember these smart tips for going to Regents Park Open Air Theatre:
- Bring jacket, sweater and scarf. Unless a heatwave develops in the next few weeks it is bloody cold there
- If it is starting to rain ignore the bells telling you to go and take your seats as they don't start the show until it stops. There's no point getting wet
- Buy the cheap seats, as the views are fine back there and you can always upgrade yourself to an empty seat
- Seat covers on sale for £1 are perfectly fine to keep you dry.
- Youtube has a fabulous preview of this production below...