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Posts Tagged ‘Francesca Pim’

All Star Productions last produced this Stephen Sondheim show just four years ago at their regular home in Walthamstow (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/into-the-woods). Now it’s in central London, fully in-the-round at the Cockpit Theatre, substantially re-cast, but essentially the same production.

Director Tim McArthur seems to have extended his contemporary characterisations, some of which work – Towie ugly sisters, Little Red Ridinghood with headphones and Sloane prince’s – but some which don’t – the witch as bag-lady and Jack’s chavy single mum (with such an impenetrable accent I could hardly understand a word she spoke or sang). The first half is meant to smother you in fairytale charm and lull you into a false sense of security, before it turns very dark after the interval; the problem with this interpretation is that it robs you of that, and that’s where it fails.

They’ve kept the adventure playground design aesthetic, albeit with a different designer. Aaron Clingham’s band sounded great, as ever, though there were amplification problems at the performance I attended. The cast is a great combination of young newcomers, like Florence Odumosu as Little Red Ridinghood and Abigail Carter-Simpson as Cinderella, both delightful, and seasoned performers like Michele Moran and Mary Lincoln, who was in the UK premiere in 1990 – a great singer in a virtually non-singing role here! Jo Wickham is excellent as an older Baker’s Wife than we’re used to, Macey Cherrett & Francesca Pim give great turns as Cinderella’s sisters and Ashley Daniels & Michael Duke make a lovely pair of prince’s.

It was only the fifth performance (but after the press night) so it may well improve. There’s much to enjoy; what I saw was flawed, but worth catching nonetheless.

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This Julian Slade / Dorothy Reynolds show shouldn’t really work in 2017. A frothy concoction from 1954 with twee music, a preposterous tale involving a piano with magical properties and visitors from Planet Z and characters that could be in a living museum. Yet it does. Somehow it makes you smile, you find yourself laughing with it rather than at it, and at times you giggle uncontrollably.

It begins with a graduation, as Jane & Timothy leave university, with a plan to meet in the park the following week. He’s under pressure to get a job and is despatched to meet various uncles, and she’s under pressure to find a husband, with a party arranged to forward this plan. A tramp pays them to look after his piano, which they discover makes people dance uncontrollably. They decide to stay with the piano, a mute companion and each other, though they are pursued by the police and the government, who want to stop all this fun. Add in spies (one an uncle), the attempted blackmail of a government minister (uncle) in an Egyptian-themed night club and the arrival of the spaceship from Planet Z (with uncle) and you have the ingredients for a cheesy but tongue-in-cheek and infectious romp.

Designer Catherine Morgan has fitted out the Union with fake turf and put the band onto a sort of bandstand, and Mike Lees has provided excellent costumes. Bryan Hodgson’s nifty staging is complimented by some very witty choreography by Joanne McShane. It’s an excellent cast, many of them recent Guildford graduates. Lowri Hamer and Laurie Denham are charming leads, with the former in fine voice, but the latter sometimes too quiet. James Gulliford and Francesca Pim are also a fine pairing as friends Nigel and Fiona. Tom Norman and Stephen Patrick have a cracking scene together as dancing PC and Inspector, the latter also shining as the night club manager. Maeve Byrne almost steals the show twice, as nightclub performer Asphynxia and a woman from outer space.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it again, for the third time in twenty-one years, so I didn’t book at first, but I’m glad I changed my mind. Great fun.

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