Into The Hoods – Remixed
Director and writer: Kate Prince
Musical Director: DJ Walde
Set Designer: Ben Stones
Video Designer: Andrzej Goulding
On Tour, Southampton Mayflower Theatre
Tuesday 29th March 2016, 19.30
The Mayflower is huge and cavernous, far bigger than most West End Theatres, twice as big as the Olivier Theatre at the National (2300 seats v 1160 seats). It was called The Gaumont when we saw Peter Brooks’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream on tour there. Since it was renamed in the 1980s it has specialized in the larger end of large musicals, with huge pantomimes in the winter. It was a surprise to see touring dance theatre there, though the massive stage and scene shifting ability is ideal. The auditorium isn’t – we were all most enthusiastic, but I’d be surprised if we filled 20% of the seats.
Rap-on-Zel (Jade Hackett) centre
Into The Hoods was conceived a decade ago as a hip-hop musical based on Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods, and was an award-winning hit in 2008. This is the “Remixed” version. It’s dance theatre not a musical though. All the songs, or rather snatches of songs, are recorded, as is the dialogue and the narrator. The classic soul and other “found” songs that appear in short bursts are sampled into hip-hop beats. My mind was doing a rapid “name that tune.” The dancers mime to the words. The programme admits an affinity with pantomime too, and I had that impression. There’s a lot of humour, much of it unmentioned, and like pantomime the funny bits had adult appeal rather than kids appeal. And the basic story is kiddy.
The quest in the story is for two kids who have to find four items to satisfy “the landlord” at Ruff-Endz Estate. No, the references are not subtle. The items are a red hooded cloak, a white iPhone, a yellow hairpiece and a luxury trainer. The items belong to Lil’ Red, a would-be singer pursued by The Wolf, a record executive; Rap-On-Zel, the landlord’s daughter; Spinderella, a DJ; and Jaxx who obviously lives in the basement, so is Basement Jaxx. So like Sondheim, and Shrek, it’s a fairy tale mash-up.We also have Giant, Fairy Gee, Ugly Stepmum, two ugly sisters, and Prince, who woos both Spinderella and Rap-in-Zel.
Jaxx (Corey Culverwell) and Lil Red (Natasha Gooden)
So it is more directly narrative than most dance theatre, and lifts it with projected cartoon video. That brings up the opening remark on the Mayflower’s cavernous barn of an interior. The music sounded fine (though not perfect) and survived the echo, and I noticed on some sampled tracks you could hear stylus on vinyl. The voice over narration and dialogue was badly affected by the echo. With 2,300 people soaking up sound waves in the musicals it always sounded good, but with far fewer that recorded voice bounced and echoed around the ornate plasterwork. We were at the front of the dress circle, level with the speakers, which may have accentuated the effect. I did notice there were no apparent monitors facing the stage, which made me think it must have sounded odd for the dancers too.
Rap-on-Zel, Prince (Daryl Baker) and Spinderella (Lucinda Wessels)
There were some memorable moments, particularly the Care Home with old folks dancing on zimmer frames … Lil’ Red’s granny is resident there. Cleverly they take the interval with granny in a chair in front of the tabs, then after the interval when she resumes her place, we gradually realize it’s the Wolf in granny’s clothes. Then there’s the fight between Jaxx and the Giant in part two. Especially, I loved all the work with a giant red cloth which formed a throne, a red carpet, a wedding dress, a table at the reception, a masking area so four dancers could create a pair of giants behind it, a James Brown soul singer’s cloak … wonderful work.
They made much of physical size. Fairy Gee (Annie Edwards) is a dwarf (I don’t think it’s PC to use the word, but I can’t think of another, and vertically-challenged is plain daft) who dances seamlessly with the rest who include two very tall guys, and I’d put the Wolf (Duwane Taylor) at 6’6” plus. The two together are brilliant visually.
The issue for me with hip hop dance is that when individuals solo, it’s breathtakingly good, but to be honest it’s an urban “folk’ form and you can see kids on the South Bank and Convent Garden in London, or Beale Street in Memphis, doing this on the street and it’s also breathtakingly good. We watched kids this athletic in Beale Street for fifteen minutes one evening, and that included one somersaulting over three others. Where you can see that Zoonation is a professional company is NOT the obligatory show-off solos, but when two or four or eight of them are doing the same moves in unison … which they do often. Or when two are doing complimentary or contrasting moves. Otherwise there is an issue with a limited and known repertoire of movements (but nothing compared to Riverdance!)
But it’s very good overall. Large cast, elaborate sets, video projection, tons of music. Teens in the audience were hugely enthusiastic. Standing ovation. We stood.
They do credit music. I’d guess there are eighty credits in the back of the programme. They don’t seem to be in order, as there was a long languid version of For What It’s Worth (aka Stop, Look, What’s That Sound) at the beginning, one of the longest pieces of the night, and it’s not mentioned. The song IS listed near the end, but it reappeared at the end in the Buffalo Springfield original version. I wanted to know because I wanted to get the languid female version. I see on Google that it has been sampled twenty-four times, but even if it has a new title, Stephen Stills should still be listed among the composers.
Some very short snatches of appropriate lines like “Rescue Me!” and “Kung-Fu Fighting” are credited, but I can’t find a credit for ‘You Sexy Thing’ (it was just those three words used) or Teddy Bears Picnic, which was a segue from For What It’s Worth. So a good effort on credits for a change. The credits do say “Correct at the time of printing’ so maybe that’s where REMIXED comes into the title.
I came out with Whitney’s ‘I Want To Dance With Somebody’ and Kool & The Gang’s ‘Celebration’ playing in my head.