Into the Woods
Directed by Nathan Sibthorpe
A uniquely staged production of Sondheim's most beloved musical with 30-piece orchestra and live 2D cel animation...
As long as they have existed, fairytales have been used as development tools for young children - helping them understand the world, the experience of being human, and the nature of right and wrong. This production draws attention to Disney as a source of moral guidance for the current generation, the rose-tinted, animated lens through which our fairytales have been adapted.
With an optimistic tone, Disney has always preached: if you want something, and you try hard enough to get it – you will get it, and you should get it, because you deserve it.
But here, Lapine & Sondheim have been a little more careful in the tales they're telling our children. Throughout Into the Woods most characters are certain of what they want – that is until they get it, and realise how unfulfilling it actually is. Or else they resign themselves to never being able to get what they want, and use this fact to wallow in self-pity.
In the same way that Sondheim & Lapine have subverted Disney's source material, this production takes joy in subverting the Disney aesthetic too. There's no fade to black in this show - when a princess dies, the cartoon keeps up...
How the Production Worked Onstage...
A 30-piece orchestra and twenty-two performers in formal attire, seated on chairs. Six microphones downstage, and the narrator seated at a raised desk. On the desk, a large storybook with layers of paper and plastic cut-outs.
A live-feed camera shows a view of the storybook, bringing to life an animated scene that hints to the 2D cel sketches of 1930's Disney. As a character enters a scene, the narrator adds them to the animated image. When important changes occur, the narrator enacts them within the page.
Meanwhile, on stage the performers restrict their action, presenting at microphones to provide voice to the cut-out characters. When a character leaves the scene, they return to their seat. When a character dies, the performer loses sense of them, before climbing offstage and taking a seat in the audience. Kicked out of the story, they are now one of us.
As the narrator tells his tale, he builds up page after page of his dynamic movie storybook. But when all hell breaks loose in Act Two, conventions begin to break...
When the narrator is compromised, the book is left abandoned and the seated performers leave the stage confused. With no more animation, the characters onstage have to embody more and more of the scene themselves.
Deceased characters sing to those they left behind, calling out unseen from the audience, on the wrong side of the fourth wall. Eventually, characters take their lives into their own hands, approaching the desk and manipulating the storybook themselves.
Presented by Ignatians Theatre Company at the Schonell Theatre, in October 2013.
Musical direction by Ben Murray; Illustrations by Anna Straker, Liz Millington & Erin Trollope; Design assistance by Nicole Neil; Assistant direction by Danielle Carney.
For a full cast list, please see Ignatians Online.