I’ve seen Sweeney Todds large and small from the Royal Opera House to the Union Theatre, and now from Broadway to Tooting Broadway. Visiting the latter proves not just to be the most unique of any production I’ve ever seen, but also the smallest and most viscerally intense. That’s because it is staged in a 106-year-old and absolutely tiny working pie and mash shop, with seating for just 32 at four large tables. The box office and bar, meanwhile, is located in a real-life barber shop across the road.
I’m not sure if Sweeney Todd has ever felt more authentic. But this is no gimmick of immersive theatre. Director Bill Buckhurst, his musical director Benjamin Cox, and a spellbinding cast of just eight players also give a thrilling dramatic and musical account of this great story and score.
Sweeney Todd is often played as a confrontation with the audience, but this time there’s a suffocating collusion as well with its horrors. We’re so close to the action that we are virtually participants, and during the great Act II More Hot Pies sequence, we really are. Buckhurst relocates the actual horrors, though, mostly to our imagination – there’s very little onstage blood-letting, but it becomes even more frightening as a result.
And in these close quarters, the score has seldom sounded as bracing and powerful, led by the powerfully voiced Jeremy Secomb in the title role who coincidentally seems to have acquired an Australian accent in his 16 years exiled there and the feistily marvellous Siobhan McCarthy as Mrs Lovett, recalling Sheila Hancock who originated the role on the London stage.
- Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop, London
- October 21-November 29, PN October 27
- Authors: Stephen Sondheim music/lyrics, Hugh Wheeler book, Christopher Bond adaptation
- Director: Bill Buckhurst
- Design: Simon Kenny set, Amy Mae Smith lighting, Joshua Richardson sound, George Lamb movement
- Musical director: Benjamin Cox
- Technical: Hannah Halden stage manager, Lorena Paton costume supervisor, Kate Plantin casting director
- Cast: Jeremy Secomb, Siobhan McCarthy, Grace Chapman, Kiara Jay, Ian Mowat, Nadim Naaman, Duncan Smith, Joseph Taylor
- Producer: Rachel Edwards, Tooting Arts Club, Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop
- Running time: 2hrs 30mins
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