Review – Into the Hoods – Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre

by

I was excited to hear that last year’s popular show Into the Hoods had been revived at the Southbank Centre for a Christmastime run. Last year, with the TTT’s enthusiastic review and Clement Crisp‘s strange passion for hip hop encouraging me, I tried to get some tickets rather way too far toward the end of the run, and was ultimately unsuccessful. Then I almost totally screwed myself out of going to see this despite knowing about it a month before it opened as, to my shock, even THREE WEEKS before the end of the run, the it was nearly sold out. WTF! Was there something going on I didn’t know about? There weren’t any sales or discounted tickets as far as I knew, it was just selling like hotcakes!

As it turns out, of COURSE I was about a decade behind the times, or maybe two: the house was PACKED, and not with my usual crowd of gray hairs or the National’s oppressive smother of bourgies, but with kids, KIDS, kids! Kids in their early twenties, in their teens and tweens, and even a few of the under ten set (one of whom was dancing on the stage to the pre-show DJ in the bar). I couldn’t believe how busy it was! And when we went into the hall for the show (start time 7:45, run time estimated at 80 minutes), and the lights went down, and the announcer said, “We wanna hear you enjoying yourselves!” damned if they didn’t roar.

And they roared and they roared all night. Me, I found it all way more amateurish than I expected. The dancers seemed like “fans” rather than pros and struggled to do unison movement; the cheesy animated background spoke of lack of budget; and, despite having several characters who were supposed to sing, every sound that came over the loudspeaker was prerecorded. And I’d been hoping for some kind of clever joke on the whole Sondheim thing, but it was nowhere to be found. Honestly, even the whole fairy tale trope wasn’t done very thoroughly. We had characters with names like those in fairy tales – “Rap”unzel, Spinderella, Red Riding Hood — but the stories were really thin. I also didn’t like the overarching story of the two kids who have to, as it turns out, steal something from each of the four main characters in order to complete some poorly defined quest. First it was an incredibly negative concept; and then, when they find them, nothing happens!

Buuuut …. well, let’s judge it on its own merits. This was basically trying to be a low budget entertainment in which a bunch of dance was presented with a bit of a story gloss, and the fairy tale was enough to hold it together. Red and her boyfriend Jack had good chemistry happening, and I really felt it when she was stolen away from him by the “wolf.” And while I didn’t think the fairy tales made sense, I really grooved on the idea of all of these people living in this same shitty place really having big dreams about their lives. They were doubtlessly very different dreams than those that the kids of, say, the National’s audience would have, but they were good dreams and I wanted to see them achieve them, so I rallied behind the characters and wondered what the dreams of people who actually lived in housing projects are like.

And the dance. Well, while it was not as tight as I would like to have seen it, it was often inventive and fun. My favorite scene was in the old folks home, where granny and gramps suddenly cast away their walkers and their wheelchairs and started getting jiggy (the guy who played Jack really stood out in this scene). I was also pleased to see the company was solidly half female, and, in fact, most of the “star” roles were women. And the choreography/staging also demonstrated that you can do stuff on the cheap and really make it work, as in the scene in which Jack and “The Giant” do a slo-mo, Matrix like fight for Jack’s Ipod, all while they’re being carried by other cast members to simulate walking in the air (etc.), then repeat it in ultra-slow motion to show the silly things they were doing during the fast bit (like answering a cell phone). I loved the cleverness and I liked the dance, and, hey, Spinderella moved like a freaking dream. Who was that girl with one shoe off and one shoe on? I spent the evening waiting for her to get solos so that I could admire her effortless, polished movement, and I still don’t know her name.

So while this show didn’t really do what I expected it to, I still enjoyed it, and at 80 minutes without interval it was the perfect, gentle entry back into theater in the week after New Year’s. Such a pity it’s closing so soon; based on how enthusiastic the audience was, there should be a performance like this every week.

*Teenaged Theatre Critic, or as he is now known, the Tyro Theatre Critic.

(Into the Hoods continues through Sunday, January 10th, 2010. This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010.)

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Review – Into the Hoods – Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre”

  1. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    You can bet your bottom dollar that 98% of the audience were blissfully unaware that this was based on a Sondheim show. Or make that 99%. Or possibly higher. Quite why they revived this rubbish is beyond me. it was poor enough the first time round.

  2. Flavio Says:

    Interesting review, but good critique.

    I have to say I agree on the dancing in unison point. I know for a fact that members of the cast are professionals (in commercial dance), dance graduates and seasoned performers (some tick several of those boxes, not just the individual).

    It was a shame as I saw Pied Piper, the alternatives to Into The Hoods before, and they know a thing or two about looking exactly the same.
    Feel free to read our review by clicking my comment.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      Your review was immensely more nuanced in terms of the dance than mine was, thanks for the link. I heard about Pied Piper today when I was working on this review and I was sorry I hadn’t seen it. I think street dance is the way to go in terms of making dance theater that people are really enthused about and I’d like to see more of it.

      • Flavio Says:

        No problem. Dance would obviously be the angle I’d be going for, for the site, of course.

        Although Pied Piper’s run is over, I do know Boy Blue will be doing a lot in 2010, so keep an eye out for them – they featured as dancers for Lemar on Saturday for So You Think You Can Dance.

        Make sure to catch Breakin’ Convention over the May Bank Holiday. Although I can’t confirm their appearance yet, there will be similar hip hop theatre acts over the three days, you don’t want to miss it.

        Oh, as a plug, I’ve a Breakin’ Convention section on the site!!

  3. Review – Some Like It Hip Hop – Zoonation at the Peacock Theater « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] Into the Hoods was the first full-length street dance evening I attended, and while I found it rough around the edges, it got me excited about the style … and the company. This meant that the company’s new show, Some Like it Hip Hop, had made it to the place of honor in my mental space as I put their flier on my cubicle’s tiny display space. Mental note: AWESOME SHOW COMING. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: