Printable CopyINTO THE WOODS
Elephant in the Room Productions
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Until 08 Nov 2020

Review by Lance Jones

After the enforced arts drought it’s been good to get out into the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Gardens for Elephant in the Room’s charming production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into The Woods”.

The experience starts right from the entry at Friend’s Gate, where the characters guide you through a winding path into what seems to be an enchanted clearing where magic is surely about to take place. As the sun goes down, the lights and the magic grow more luminous. The smart money pre-purchased the picnic box; the wise ones also bought their warm clothes on a very chilly November evening. The irony of the severely restricted COVID audience attending a performing arts production as compared to the tens of thousands allowed to gather just down the road for a Rugby League game was painfully stark. I guess we can be thankful for the “cosy” nature of the audience on this chilly evening.

Yet when the music started all that stuff was simply absorbed into a marvellous evening of charming entertainment delivered by a talented cast. Danielle Ruggiero-Prior was a very convincing witch, wearing her cape (and the fake nose) like she owns it. The quirky nature of her character is a well-trodden path for her, and she was as impressive as she was amusing. Nick Munday played a gorgeously stupid Jack while Claire Langsford provided us with a slightly creepy side to Little Red Riding Hood. She made you want to barrack for The Wolf, played with impressive growliness by Blake Ascione. Blake’s entrance as The Wolf was the moment of the evening, stealing the show with stunning hilarity. His re-emergence as one of the Princely Brothers paired him once again with the dashing and wonderfully talented Simon Barnett. Their tongue-in-cheek delivery of the two gormless twits seeking “love” (or, more accurately, lustful domination) compares well with their previous offerings in shows bygone. They bounce off each other well and were very funny.

Katie Elle-Jackson showed off her considerable vocal chops with her version of The Baker’s Wife while Alexandra Gard played Cinderella with impressive vocal ability. Jamie Moffatt’s rich and well-trained vocals stunned the audience – although he displayed hesitation with some of his dialogue. The rest of the cast added to the quality of the performance with their wonderful depth of talent.

Chris Prior’s set design was very simple and stark which is understandable as we emerge from the COVID shut down; however, the Botanic Gardens – with the ambient lighting on the tall trees – provided a beautiful backdrop that did not require augmentation. There were several dropouts in the sound mix throughout the evening, and the EQs started out a little on the high side, but this improved as we journeyed more comfortably into the performance.

Yes, it was great to finally “get out” into the woods, literally, and see some enjoyable theatre.