Last night, D and I had a very rare night out.  We went to the Chocolate Box Theatre’s production of Sondheim’s  ‘Into the Woods’ at the Emporium on London Road. And we absolutely loved it.

It’s not our neck-of-the-woods, and I had not been to Emporium before.  I have googled a bit this morning, and can’t find any history but I would be fascinated to hear how the theatre has come about. It’s an old church, an amazing space, but a bit rough around the edges, being pushed back into really valuable use as a theatre and creative community space.  Right up my street.

And what an amazing venue.  Inside, Emporium has been cleared of pews and filled with a café, a bar, large palms and sofas.  There are open-sided booths and tables and chairs set up around the room. I had heard that it’s a great space for lunch or coffee with kids, but I honestly had no idea it would be as shabbily beautiful as this.  Reminiscent of a crumbly colonial hotel bar in Asia. And last night, on the hottest day of the year, feeling like it too.  Cool and airy after the humid heat of busy London Road.

This would be a wonderful place for a wedding or a big party.  Beautiful.

We arrived early (we don’t often get a babysitter, so made best use of it), and took the opportunity to check out the café and grab a quick bite.  There is a good selection of quality, but unfussy food, including good veggie and vegan options.  My kids and I  could very happily eat here, and there is free WiFi and good space, so I could work too.  I also photographed a poster about a drop-in method acting session, (which is my brand-new passion since immersing myself in this musical), but there is loads of other stuff on too.  If you’re local, next time you are walking down a sweltering London road, please do pop in for a breezy green tea sorbet under the palms.

We ate chorizo and cheese toasties, and had a cold drink.   Our friends arrived and made full use of the full bar, and we had a snoop around and a catch-up before going into the show.

The warehouse theatre is a wonderful space.  Just a few rows of seats and benches around, on and in the stage for this production.  There were trees and a woodchip floor.  Into the woods indeed.

And then the show began.

And what a show.  Up close and personal – we were quite within it.  The singing was amazing and I loved that the music was all live.

The story is a whole load of traditional fairy tales, complete with their gory endings in some cases, blended together cleverly, exploring parenthood, sex and relationships and growing-up.  Light-hearted, charming and intimate.  But with great big fat show tunes too.  Funny and wonderful.

Favourites include the wonderful Tabitha Wady, taking an amusing and sideways slant on infertility and adultery as the baker’s wife.  Conor Baum – a wonderful simple Jack, with a belting and gorgeous voice.  Emilia Tzilios makes a brilliant Red Riding hood, delving into the nice and nasty bits of sexuality, lust and finding a balance between the excitement of risk-taking and danger.

I also loved Duncan Drury and Joe Burn’s Princes (and Duncan’s Wolf).  Predatory and un-selfconcious as they were amusing.

And we were right there.  In the play.  In the music.

I practically cartwheeled out, fancying myself a theatre-land goddess in the making.  Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended for a night of fairy tale fantasy and belting tunes.

D and I were given tickets for the purposes of this review but I was not paid for this review and only ever write exactly what I want.  

P.S.  It was the hottest day of the year, and the warehouse theatre was very warm.  Dress to stay cool or take a fan.