Eileen Caiger Gray reviews INTO THE HOODS at SHEFFIELD LYCEUM
As in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, the drama of Into the Hoods- Remixed revolves around the surreal ups and downs of a couple of humans who get caught up with a whole bunch of fairytale characters. But there the similarity ends.
The original 2008 award-winning West End hip-hop dance show, co-produced by Zoonation with Sadler’s Wells, has now been re-choreographed, its soundtrack remixed and sets and costumes freshly designed. As narrator’s voice helps propel quirky characters from Ruff Endz Estate to eventual happy endings, enthusiasm, humour and insistent music fill the stage.
Star of the show is Ben Stone’s fabulous set, with hats off equally to video designer Andrzej Goulding and lighting master Andrew Murrell. Together they’ve created a thing of beauty, wonder and delight. A stylised concrete jungle of Triffid street-lamps, that cleverly conjures up creepy forest depths, frames all that goes on around the wibble-wobble, crooked heights of Beanstalk Tower apartments, improbable home of DJ Spinderella, singer Lil Red, rapper Rap-on-Zel, green-clad music producer Jaxx, Giant, Wolf (of Big Teef records) and, of course, a baggy-bloomered Prince.
Rich floods of vibrant, uplifting colour offset the entrancing graphics and create striking contrasts with deep, spooky darkness. Costumes blend to perfection with set, props and lighting, from threatening, black hoodies with ghostly white stripes to the lush redness of Lil Red’s cape, the golden wings of Fairy Gee and the vulgar, pantomime yellow and pink brightness of Ugly Sister frothiness.
Dedicated, energetic dancing comes consistently from young dancers of mixed shapes, sizes and colours, as two lost children follow a quest to find an iPhone as white as milk, trainers (or one, anyway) as pure as gold, a hoodie as red as blood and some weave as yellow as corn. It’s a sight to behold when the bent, shuffling inhabitants of the old folks’ home get going, though it’s the last ensemble piece that impresses most when a longer, beat-driven sequence provides scope for a more stunning togetherness and beauty of movement. The more acrobatic hip-hop, break-dancing solos also earn extra whoops from young audience members.
More than ninety expertly remixed snatches, fragments and bursts of music are blended, juxtaposed and interspersed ( – or for some, perhaps, annoyingly interrupted or frustratingly cut short) while at least ten choreographers have had input into dance routines, all under the direction of writer Kate Prince. Though the synchronicity is often less succinct and precise, the variety more restricted, and the general expertise less astounding than in dance shows like Stomp or those of The Demon Barbers, the beauty of the spectacle and the infectious enthusiasm of the performers ensure a good time is had by all and provide great inspiration to aspiring young dancers.
Eileen Caiger Gray
The show travels next to Brighton, Southampton, Canterbury and Manchester.