Into the Woods - 13 February 1999

I am very partial to the Donmar Warehouse and a show such as Into the Woods fits the venue perfectly. Within the small stage area a thin revolve brought characters on through the action and off again back into the dense forest at the back of the stage. In the far distance is the royal castle and amongst the forest Rapunzel’s tower. So in this setting Sondheim’s adult fairy tale evolved.

The company consisted of a mixture of actor / singers and singer /actors all of which complimented each other although the desire for singers in numbers such as Giants in the Sky and Agony (refering to Damien Lewis as opposed to Matt Rawle) would have been preferable, but this was only a minor detraction from the performance. All the performances were excellent and in particular Sophie Thompson, Sheridan Smith and Jenna Russell. Sophie’s scatty Baker’s Wife was complimented by Nick Holders quiet Baker. Sheridan’s Yorkshire Red Riding Hood was wonderfully witty and sarcastic bringing many moment of laughter with her perfectly timed responses. Jenna was a strong Cinders and created a character far from the traditional ‘put upon’ girl but one who knows her position and what she needs to move on. She sang 'No One is Alone' beautifully bringing tears to the casts eyes and the audiences. Matt Rawle and Damien Lewis brought two very upper crust English princes to our attention primarily concerned with their happiness and no one elses and of course always trying to avoid any danger. Clare Burt was more effective as the ugly witch than when she transformed back to her former self. Some of the lines could have been delivered more sharply / clearer with irony. She gave a good performance but Kathryn Evan’s Witch in the 97 Leicester production was more effective.

The whole cast were strong with the smaller roles completing an all round excellent show and a mention must be made of Milky White, the most expressionate cow I’ve seen on stage : ). The end of this show can be emotional from ‘No One is Alone’ onwards and on this the last night it certainly was. Jenna and Sheridan comforted each other during ‘No One is Alone’ and Nick Holder was very emotional during ‘No More’ and when his wife reappears. He still hadn’t recovered at the curtain call. Well done to the Donmar for another excellent show.

1 March 1999