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May 2, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s Dutch Season

Welcome to the WoodsWelcome to the Woods
Reviewed by Alice Pearce

Welcome to the Woods is the one of the latest works from Long Cloud Youth Theatre, sharing their double-billed Dutch Season with The Book of Everything. Directed by Willem Wassenaar, it charges on to the stage from the get go, quite literally as Dora and Fanny (played by Johanna Cosgrove and Ingrid Saker respectively) race around the set.

The story is loosely pitched as being Little Red Riding Hood-esque in that at least one female enters some woods and a wolf shows up somewhere along the way (fantastically introduced by Barney Tennyson as Jos). However the fairy tale very quickly descends into something else entirely. It seems to play out as an abstract exploration of the modern day relationships between men and woman, the power play between them and how sexism might actually work now. With this comes a highly charged undercurrent of sexuality which seems to drive the story.

There is a lot to commend about this production. The characterisation and performances are incredibly well handled by the youngsters, if you can call them that. Cosgrove and Saker play their parts with power and conviction, and the supporting roles that the boys pick up are nothing short of spectacular. Jonathan Price and Luke Wilson in particular show impressive comedic abilities, though it’s hard to single anyone out as the entire cast is so strong. The design and staging throughout are powerful too, from the fawn at the beginning lightly dusting himself with green powder to the ironing board prison, there are some spectacular stage images presented.

However I came away a little confused. The men for instance were elfs and priests and farmers and yet weren’t really any of those things either. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Many of the metaphors and messages the play seemed full of went right over my head. Either I was getting lost or they weren’t actually there, I’m not sure which. A shame perhaps as it definitely felt like there was a lot of potential for this sort of thing. The play’s set up made me want to reach some sort of point which as it was I never felt like I got.

Aside from a few key moments that were really touching such as Fanny’s muffled scream when accosted by Emil (Saker and Michael Van Echten) I also felt slightly unconnected from the characters, with the possible exception of Cosgrove’s Dora. Though the performances were strong and made me laugh I didn’t feel I cared enough. With all the meta-theatrical references, like the ending in particular, I got the sense that this could have potentially been the desired effect, but again I just wasn’t sure.

Others might have a totally different experience, it seems like the type of play where this would be the case, so get along yourself and try it out if you’re interested. I’d recommend it regardless for the performances and the intrigue factor. Woods are supposed to be dense after all.

The Book of EverythingThe Book of Everything
Reviewed by Clare Marcie Wilson

“It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just fun” – this is the final line to The Book of Everything, a quirky, charming play based on a Dutch novel. Long Cloud delivers yet again with buckets of enthusiasm and a delicious sense of charm and wit. It tells the story of a little boy (Thomas) with a wild imagination, and what it’s like in his world, with his family. The book in question is where Thomas writes about well, everything, even though his Dad advises him that the only books worth reading are about God.

The theatre space was well utilised, the set creating a fascinating sense of depth (courtesy of designers Daniel Williams and Emma Hough). Sam Phillips as the 9 (nearly 10) year old Thomas is fantastic, mixing youthful shyness with raw enthusiasm in an intelligently witty way. Another stand out was Michael Boyes as a comical boy next door Jesus, visiting and advising Thomas at various points of the play. The cast was strong and multi-talented, more than one member being quite practised at playing piano. Freya Sadgrove was surprisingly striking as the troubled mother.

The script was a great blend of childhood imagination and more rather taboo subject matter, with a moral that was whispered once or twice quite tastefully. Director Willem Wassenaar knows what he’s doing. The script was unique and fun, the cast a strong, sharp group, and the set and lighting well designed.

This play DID mean something, because it WAS fun. It took sheer joy in storytelling, and allowing the audience to explore the often forgotten ‘infantile hallucinations’ of our childhood. What do you want to be when you grow up? “Happy” replies Thomas. I’ll leave you with the words of the wise old witch “Happiness begins with not being afraid anymore.” How wonderful is that!

Welcome to the Woods and The Book of Everything
At Whitireia Theatre 25-27 Vivian street
By Long Cloud Youth Theatre
19 – 24 April and 26 April – 1 May

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