Fringe Theatre

Into the Woods

Assembly Hall

Marianne Gunn

four stars

THE ROYAL Conservatoire of Scotland's main-stage musical theatre offering has the potential for greatness but there is just a little bit of technical polishing required before their Into the Woods wholly succeeds. Stephen Sondheim's dark re-working of the tales of both the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault is a Freudian delight with wolves, witches and wickedness around every twisty turn. The cast is also gifted with some fabulously complex fairytale characters, such as Little Red Riding Hood (a physically feisty performance from Abigail Stephenson) and Jack of the Beanstalk fame (during Saturday's show played by a strikingly square-jawed Peter Vint).

While the fairytale premise may suggest a family friendly affair, it is probably much more for the adults, with displays of kiddie restlessness during its two-and-a-half-hour duration (including interval). The violent mauling of Rapunzel (Katelin Wight) was one of its more darker moments, while the devouring of Little Red Riding Hood was depicted with shadow puppetry and considerable humour.

Of the Musical Theatre student performances, Andrew MacNaughton's as The Baker (arguably the play's protagonist) brought both vocal dexterity and authentic emotional engagement to the role. As The Witch (also dual cast during the Fringe run) Beatrice Owens was suitably spellbinding in a role made famous by Bernadette Peters on Broadway. Her solo in Act 2 was the send-shivers Sondheim moment and Last Midnight did not disappoint, exposing a ruthlessness the other characters were desperate to mask.

Live instrumentation under the musical direction of James Harrison and Robert Wilkinson was impressive while director Michael Howell's casting of Cinderella and Rapunzel's philandering princes was simply a match made in storybook heaven (Péter and András Horváth). It'll be an unmissable ticket very soon.