Into The Woods - Redcliffe Musical Theatre

A fresh new take on Sondheim’s ‘Into The Woods’

“A timeless classic, reimagined through a new lens and performed by some deeply passionate and skilled actors” – Christopher Batkin

To kick off their 2022 season, Redcliffe Musical Theatre (RMT) is bringing ‘Into the Woods’ to the stage; but not as audiences know it. As a well known musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, which brings the classic fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm to life, award-winning director Elodie Boal has presented a modern, post-apocalyptic version of the Broadway hit.

Theatre Haus spoke with lead cast members Christopher Batkin (The Baker) and Jennifer B Ashley (The Witch) who have taken a step out of this dystopian world to tell us more about the fresh new take on “Into the Woods”.

Into The Woods - Redcliffe Musical Theatre
A new modern interpretation of Sondheim’s ‘Into The Woods’ performs at Redcliffe Musical Theatre.
What were your first thoughts when you discovered the concept of the show?

 “I thought it was perfect!” Batkin says, “As a group of people whose creative practice is based in live performance, and theatre, we’ve been feeling like we’re living in the end times for a while now, so it’s been very cathartic to embody this group of people trying to find themselves and achieve their wishes, after the end of everything.”

Ashley explains, “I believe my eyes opened wider and my mouth gaped a little trying to wrap my head around how this would work. But when Elodie explained how the elements connect to a modern adaptation to keep the storyline fresh and aligning with a 2022 world, I now can’t see this production being done in any other way. The stories in ‘Into The Woods’ are too raw to keep in a traditional fairy-tale concept.”

What should audiences expect coming into the theatre?

“Do not expect the concept you’ve seen in the movie, or in other productions.” Ashley warns, “This version of the show rips away the glitter and gold and reveals the heart of the story – raw and unadulterated. Mind you – there is still glitter and gold! But, it goes beyond the fairy-tale. Audiences should expect an immersive (well – as much as we can, Covid considering) version of the show that draws on your heartstrings. By the end of it, they’ll be relating themselves to one of the characters no doubt! I wonder who will see the witch in themselves?”

What makes this production special/different?

“Special? The overall vision and the cast. Different? The overall vision and the cast! Each member of our cast is unique and brings an energy to their role that is infectious. I was watching one of the final scenes of the show last night and was in awe of how the actors tackled the scenes – straight to the heart – no passing go – oh boy! This musical is so layered, and it’s delicious to explore how these stories transcend time,” Ashley enthused.

Batkin pontificated, “I think that a production of ‘Into the Woods’, being a story about stories, is always going to be a reflection of how it currently feels to be a performer or an artist. And currently, it’s still a very strange time, and I think we’ve been trying to combine that confusion and uncertainty with the whimsy and playfulness that we’re hoping to see in the world again soon.”

Boal has not only transformed the world of ‘Into the Woods’, but also transformed the overall experience. This production is immersive and interactive; Boal’s directorial style aims to build a world that audiences can escape into and embark on an adventure. This closely aligns with some of the storylines of ‘Into The Woods’, in which characters are seeking new journeys.

What discoveries have you made, as an actor, along the way?

Batkin states, “One thing that I’ve grown to appreciate through this process has been just how many of my incredible cast-mates I get the opportunity to act alongside in this story, as The Baker weaves in and out of all of these other narratives on his personal quest. It’s the sort of thing you don’t always appreciate as an audience member, but getting the chance to really “work with” everyone has been a surprising delight through this process.”

“Moments within the moments within the moments – I love it when you sink your teeth into a script and have the chance to play and play and play until something lands,” Ashley proclaims. I’ve loved turning the witch up to 11 and then down to 3 then back up to 7 etc., and Elodie has created a safe and intoxicating rehearsal room where we’ve discovered and lost and rediscovered. As this is my first major lead role in a musical I’ve had to also learn to trust myself and my abilities and kick to the curb the imposter syndrome we all feel now and then.”

Into The Woods - Redcliffe Musical Theatre
Jennifer B Ashley stars as the Witch, alongside Christopher Batkin as Baker and Stephanie Collins as Baker’s Wife in Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s production of ‘Into The Woods’.
Which other character’s costume do you wish you could wear?

“My costumes are quite extraordinary – I just adore how their concept has been realised.” Ashley explains, “But if I had to choose another character’s costumes, I would love to sink my teeth into Little Red’s costume – or even the wolfs! Or a combination of them both! Their aesthetic is so dangerous yet sensual, innocent but risky – it’s a feast! Layer that with the energy of the two actors (Madeline Harper and Isaac Brown) and wow – you have a chemistry that raises the hairs on the back of your neck.”

“I mean, we’re performing in a big metal box in February, I wish I could wear Rapunzel’s Prince’s outfit, if only because he gets to undo a couple of extra buttons down from the top of his shirt.” Batkin humourises.

With a legendary score by Sondheim and Boal’s original take on the story, Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s production will sure make an interesting and immersive experience.

‘Into The Woods’ plays RMT’s Theatre 102 for a limited season until Saturday, 5 March 2022.

To book your ticket for ‘Into The Woods’ and embark on this exciting journey, visit Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s website.

Read More: An interview with Kirra Lang who performs as Cinderella in ‘Into The Woods’.

Photos by Ben McShea of BEAK Photographics.
Videography by Matthew Bennett. 

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