Into the Hoods, the Zoonation and Sadler’s Wells co-production, is ten years old this year. It’s been freshened up by director Kate Prince for the next generation of families, with a new soundtrack and choreography.
Following its debut in 2006 and an award-winning run at the Edinburgh fringe, Into the Hoods hit London’s West End, then the Southbank, and this remixed version is now back home (after a national tour) at the Peacock Theatre until 21 May.
Can you call hip-hop jolly? If so, I’d describe Into the Hoods as a jolly romp through a modern-day fairy tale. It’s loosely based on Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and features a boy and girl who find themselves lost on Ruff Endz estate, watching a bevy of characters live, love and lose, and in the meantime learning some new dance skills.
The plot combines several different fairy tales. Spinderella loses her shoe and is tracked down by Prince; Rap-on-Zel struts around, whirling her colossal yellow weave like a giant snake; and Lil Red is charmed then repelled by a dodgy music agent, Wolf (played by a gargantuan Duwayne Taylor, who proves that mega-tall men can dance). At the same time there’s social commentary: Landlord Andry Oporia makes tenants homeless, and won’t let the kids go home until they’ve stolen some gifts for his daughter Rap-on-Zel. At the top of the Ruff Endz tower block lives Giant, who (gulp!) is the source of some drug dealing, subtly masked to make it less obvious to younger members of the audience.
The dancing in Into the Hoods is phenomenal, especially the ensemble pieces, which were mesmerising. DJ Walde’s mix of music, from the opening bars of Massive Attack’s Teardrops, through the Mattaflix refrain of Big City Life, to Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting, was accessible to a fogey like me, but felt fresh enough to suit the energy of the young dancers.
Into the Hoods was funny, with a feel-good attitude. The bad guys were played to comedic effect, and there were some amusing references to films like the Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. My daughter was so infected by the dance vibe that she had a little bop in the aisles at one point. It’s advertised as suitable for over-fives, but at 2 hours 16 minutes (with an interval) the show might be a little long for some. On the other hand, our four-year old daughter sat through and enjoyed the whole spectacle. Edgy it isn’t; but it was a fun family jaunt for our sunny weekend.
Into the Hoods is at the Peacock Theatre until 21 May. Tickets range from £15-£38. We were given tickets for the purpose of this review.
Here’s a trailer, in case you want to see a glimpse of the show: