Posts Tagged ‘Jo Wickham’

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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It’s hard to believe its 22 years since the London premiere of this Howard Goodall musical set in the Spanish Civil War. It wasn’t revived for ages and has since (I think) only received two other London productions, at the Kings Head & the Landor. Hearing the title song in Ye Olde Rose & Crown’s Goodall compilation Love & War last year fired me up to see it again, so this trip to the northern end of the Victoria line was a must.

The Spanish Civil War has come to and end, Franco is in the process of setting up his Fascist state and the Second World War has just begun. Republican fighter Carlos has returned home with the young British communist Stanley, who has been leading his brigade. Stanley falls in love with Carlos’ daughter Sofia and plans to escape home to Scarborough (!) with her and her parents. Carlos’ comrade Jose and niece Teresa’s intended Pablo remind us how this war divided a nation, communities and families.

Christopher Dingli & Jo Wickham do well playing older as bickering but still in love parents Carlos and Maria, with the latter leading the Act II opener Market Day particularly well. Annie Kirkman is a great Sofia and her duet, Lorca, with Lydia Marcazzo’s Teresa was another highlight. Emanuel Alba and Alexander Barria both bring passion to the opposing roles of Jose & Pablo, handling their respective songs – Long Live Death and Democracy – well. Though Rupert Baldwin acted well, I’m afraid he didn’t rise to the solo vocal challenge that is Song of the English Volunteer, faring better backed by the company in Song of the Brigades.

I liked the immediacy and intimacy of Tim McArthur’s in-the-round (well, in-the-square) staging with no set and just a table and chairs for props; a lot of the action takes place at and around the dinner table after all. Aaron Clingham’s little band sounded great, with a pair of acoustic guitars anchoring the score in Spain and the company numbers were more rousing than you ‘d expect from a cast of seven.

This is a short two-week run and given the limited rehearsal time and resources, they’ve done well. Definitely worth the trip to the far north-east!

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