Cockpit Theatre, London – 24 June 2018
I love this modern version of Sondheim’s subversive musical, which draws on Grimm fairy tales for a grittier and wittier take on the consequences of the behaviour of ordinary people (and some royalty) in stressful circumstances. This production cleverly uses contemporary stereotypes and issues and fresh dialogue with national and regional dialects from around the UK.
Jack’s mother is a Scottish young working class, lager-swilling, neglectful single mother, who is nonetheless smart and has some of the best wisecracks. One Prince is shown to be a charming player, a narcissist, who seduces the baker’s wife. The TOWIE-type ugly sisters are shallow, grasping, materialistic and all about appearances. Their clichéd mannerisms are wonderfully exaggerated for comic effect.
The witch is a deluded bag lady. Rapunzel is a drug addict. We should all remember that the original Grimm fairy tales were very grim indeed; they were violent and cruel, ending very badly for many of the characters due to their errant behaviour. This is reflected in the body count, the newsworthy plot, the brilliant dialogue and of course Sondheim’s songs.
The hugely talented cast have excellent singing voices, which is the essential cherry on the top of this delightful production. Standout performances are the characters of the Witch, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and the prince. It is a fun and entertaining production dealing with serious issues which provide an underlying commentary about society in 21st century Britain.