Christmas Review



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ZooNation and Phil McIntyre Entertainment present

Into the Hoods

A London Fairytale



Director:  Kate Prince


Choreography: Kate Prince & ZooNation


Music Supervisor:  DJ Walde


Lighting Designer:  Adam Bassett


Video Director:  Felix Harrison


Video & Computer Programmer:  Jonathan Bond


Southbank Centre

Queen Elizabeth Hall


16 Dec. 2009 -10 Jan. 2010  







ary Couzens

A review by Chad Armitstead for EXTRA! EXTRA!


One would think that a show that has its audience screaming with excitement before it even begins has nothing to prove.  Apparently ZooNation doesn’t know that.

The first ever hip hop show to transfer to the West End, Into the Hoods is an affectionate appropriation of Sondheim’s fairy tale musical of almost the same name.  Though a little heavier on pop-locking and lighter on story than Sondheim, the hip hop re-imagination lacks nothing in way of entertainment.

ZooNation’s show begins with a boy and girl who get lost and wander into Ruff Endz Estate, the home of a motley collection of aspiring entertainers and a shady landlord.  The landlord promises to see the children safely out of the hood and home if they find four birthday gifts for his daughter MC Rap-on-Zel:  An iPod as white as milk, a hoodie as red as blood, a weave as yellow as corn and trainers as pure as gold.  The children set off and through their eyes we witness the stories already in progress in the Ruff Endz tower block. 

DJ Spinderella is dating lady magnet Prince.  Prince is two-timing her with Rap-on-Zel, who lets down her hair extensions so he can visit.  Wolf runs Big Teef Records and tricks Lil Red into signing a dodgy recording contract.  Lil Red has feelings for down-and-out, about-to-be evicted Jaxx, who aspires to writing sick beats and enters into his own dodgy dealings with Giant, who lives in the penthouse.

This fairy tale definitely won’t put your kids to sleep.

Into the Hoods is a whirring dynamo of invention.  From the projections to the choreography, ZooNation has packed every second with ingenious, eye-popping charisma.

Katie Prince and ZooNation choreograph and individual personality bursts out of each character’s dance moves.  The entire show brims with the bring-it-on bravado of hip-hop.  The dance stuns with its ambition, repeating itself precious little in its solid hour and twenty minutes of break-neck momentum. 

The Narrator (Josh Cohen) oozes his own distinct persona.  Speaking virtually the only lines in the show, he interjects to tell the story only at a few key moments with street-charm infused lines like “Spinderella was the best DJ this side of Hackney.”

Not only setting the scene with convincing graffiti mural style, the projections are as playful as the cast.  Quite possibly the most seamless integration and most effective use of projection in theatre I’ve seen, ZooNation manages to achieve some surprising ‘how-did-they-do-that’ sleight of hand with their animated scenes. 

Maxwell Oginni, Kingbee Animation and Olly Montagu (animation), Ikenna Mokwe (original animation), together with Felix Harrison (video director) and Jonathan Bond (video and computer programmer) have integrated their work so intricately with the choreography that they and their projections feel like members of the dance ensemble.  The animations move in concert with the actors and scenes, giving the sensation that the projections are objects, not projected light.  Upon reflection as you’re leaving the show, theirs is an unexpectedly accomplished achievement.

During the show, however, the dancers are the real stars.  There’s an incredible sense of collaboration and camaraderie between the cast that warms the space.  Their power over the Southbank Centre is such that the audience is delighted to buy into the idea of human turntables, hospice dance-offs and pink weave-topped drag step-sisters.  There’s a joy in being tricked by their inventive antics.

Sacha Chang’s performance as Lil Red thrills with the self-assured catch-me-if-you-can charm of a hip hop coquette.  Teneisha Bonner’s lithe liquid agility gives Spinderella as much sensitivity as sass.

There’s a justified cockiness in Rowen Hawkins’ athletic rendering of the down-on-his-luck showboat Jaxx while Roger Davies’ Prince is full of devious, playful cowardice, which he conceals with macho bluff.

Jaxx and Jeffrey Felicisimo’s impressively athletic Giant share a deviously clever comic fight scene on skateboards that has to be mentioned.

Dre Oporia infuses Wolf’s choreography with a lanky, stalking mischief as he pursues Lil Red.  Shaun Niles matches and raises Oporia’s lank as the Ugly Stepmom.  In a pink wig and flashing his long legs, he makes the matron an overbearing cougar (in the older woman sense) force for Wolf to reckon with.  Niles’ Stepmom and the Ugly Sisters (Jeffrey Felicisimo and Kieron Providence) radiate scene-stealing drag audacity.

There’s a naïve confidence in Rhimes Lecointe’s performance as the spoiled-child Rap-on-Zel, offset by her father, the Landlord (Frank Wilson & Hakeem Onibudo), whose elastic suspender-clad performance is good for a few laughs in each of his scenes. 

The ensemble’s sheer talent shines throughout, while the lost children (played alternately by Liam Francis, Lily Field and Rachelle Ragassa and Annie Edwards) impress with some invention of their own in their dance-offs.

Annie Edwards’ pop-lock powerhouse Fairy Gee fills every corner of the Queen Elizabeth hall and comes dangerously close to stealing the relentlessly entertaining show.

The design team has created the perfect cement paradise playground for the ZooNation’s rambunctious romp through the hood and sound designer Rory Madden has put together a playlist full of hip hop nostalgia and pop adrenaline.

Into the Hoods never rests on its considerable laurels, despite its consistent success since its humbler beginnings at Edinburgh.  Though they have nothing to prove anymore, ZooNation obviously refuses to lower their own expectations of their show.  It’s definitely a show not to be missed by anyone, any age, anywhere within the reach of London’s hoods.



Tickets:  £27.50, £25, £22.50, £20, £15
Concessions: 50% off under 16s

Box office:  0844 875 0073







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