27th Oct 2016
Few can be unaware of the legendary figure of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Such was the popularity of the murderous goings on of this fictitious character from the pages of the Victorian penny dreadfuls, that some believe his story has a basis in reality – but let’s not allow dubious facts to intrude into a murderously good yarn.
And why stop at murder? There is rape, flagellation, imprisonment, insanity and revenge to include – not necessarily the basis of a happy tale!
This joint production between the Derby Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester draws together and excellent cast of actors led by the powerfully strong stage presence of Hugh Maynard playing Todd. Todd’s foil is the ever-entrepreneurial Mrs Lovett (played by Sophie-Louise Dann) who cavorts about the stage beautifully, whilst breathlessly singing her part, and for me, easily the star of the show.
However intentional or not, there was a hint of a certain TV advert about Signor Pirelli’s part (played by Simon Shorten) which added much needed levity amid the murder. You’ll know exactly which advert I mean when you see the show.
There is a great deal of scene setting before the intermission, but after a slow start the show roars into life just before the lights come down on the first half as Todd & Lovett eulogise about which professions make the tastiest pies.
Quite apart from the acting talent on stage, mention must be made of Sara Perks’ set. An ingenious revolving creation which allowed for seamless set changes.
I did find it difficult to make out some of the dialogue in the first half as the musician’s volume sometimes overwhelmed that of the actors. Indeed, I overheard at the intermission that I was not alone in this. The second half was far better so presumably this was nothing more than a fine-tuning requirement.
After the intermission, as the body count rose and the pie shop thrived so too did the pace of the action. Inevitably greed and the lust for revenge led to discovery and the twist in the plot that would lead you to sympathise with the sadly wronged barber.
The standing ovation at the end said more than I ever could of this excellent production of a gruesome tale. Sweeney Todd runs at the Mercury Theatre Colchester until 12th November.
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