Once upon a time a downhearted freelance choreographer was trapped in a job she did not enjoy. Like a gift from a fairy godmother, a wonderful idea for an enchanting dance show came to her, offering her the way out of the surrounding concrete forest and back to the land of street dance freedom she loved; a show which combined fairy tales with hip hop culture. Matthew Amer was in the first night audience for Into The Hoods at the Novello.
The Ruff Endz Estate is not a magical world; there are very few concrete urban tower blocks that could be described as enchanting. But it is into this world that two lost children stumble and it is here that they find characters including wannabe DJ Spinderella, the crimson hoodie-wearing Lil’ Red who dreams of being a singer, the money grabbing manager Wolf, the teenage MC Rap-on-Zel, and local playa Prince.
The fairy tale characters we so easily recognise have been drawn together in the style of Sondheim’s Into The Woods, to give a loose story around which the cast of ZooNation dancers get to showcase their gravity-defying, adrenalin-fuelled, crowd-pleasing street dance skills.
Every energetic step is taken to make the plot as easy to follow as possible. The leads get primary coloured costumes to remind you who they are, while the ensemble performs in black tracksuits. An unseen narrator, like the consummate storyteller, keeps the audience updated on the action taking place. And the plot rarely travels further than an urban updating of the stories we all know.
It is because these fairy tales are so well known that ZooNation can have such fun updating them to a modern urban setting. Spinderella loses a gold trainer at Prince’s ball – her Stepmother and Ugly Sisters are played, in true panto style, by male members of the ensemble dragging it up. Lil’ Red visits her grandma at an old people’s home, where the OAPs have a street dance battle. And the show is stolen – like one of the character’s iPod – by the Fairy Gee, Spinderella’s fairy godmother who, on press night, was played by the knee-high youngster Annie Edwards in a gold tracksuit, pulling off moves that had the audience in magical raptures.
The show’s atmosphere of unadulterated fun is aided by clever projection that sees the performers hop in and out of scenery projected onto the back wall. The soundtrack – including Gorillaz, Fergie, Eminem, Barry White, Stevie Wonder and James Brown – provides an eclectic collection for the dancers to break, pop and perform jaw-dropping moves to.
As the show progresses towards its finale it seems as though the lives of the urban fairytale characters will be nothing but hopeless, unfulfilled dreams. But we all know that is not how fairytales end, is it? em>MA