These are turbulent times and as someone completely unfamiliar with this musical, it felt slightly frivolous to spend the evening at a show based on fairy tales, writes Katie Kelly…
How wrong I was. I emerged at the end utterly wrung out emotionally, and awed that Sondheim could have written a piece that so perfectly portrayed the complexity of human experience, plumbed the depths of our darkness and yet never descended into cynicism and ended on a hopeful note.
To begin at the beginning…Once upon a time there was a quite brilliant cast of all-singing, all-dancing, actors and musicians from the Fiasco Theatre Company, who travelled from a far away land to tell a story, brilliantly woven from ancient tales. They introduced themselves to their Menier Chocolate Factory audience with a charming and very necessary request that they overlook the very obvious pregnancy of the actress playing the childless Baker’s wife. There was laughter and applause and things got off to a jolly, if rather frenetic, start.
In the first act we were entertained by Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel as you have never seen them before. This half ended with all of their stories seemingly resolved despite the best, or worst, efforts of the omnipotent and wonderfully played Witch.
It was Happy Ever After at the interval drinks and genuinely hard to imagine what was going to happen next. Apparently, when the show first opened it was not uncommon for people to go home happy at this point. To do so would be to miss a dark and destructive second half but one full of emotional richness and beautiful writing. I fully intend to return and see the show again. I cannot recommend it highly enough, but leave me a ticket!
Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU
Until 17 September
Tue – Sat 8pm, matinees Sat and Sun 3.30pm
Box Office: 020 7378 1713 – www.menierchocolatefactory.com
Standard seats £35.00, Premier seats £40.00