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Sweeney Todd review at Derby Theatre – ‘immaculately delivered’

Hugh Maynard in Sweeney Todd at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day
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Thrilling organ chords set the scene for a production as dark and shocking as it is richly comic. Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd is Victorian melodrama in which poverty stalks the streets, the frenzy of the madhouse chills, the Judge sends a child to the gallows and teeth are extracted in an eye-watering manner, the atmosphere bolstered by Sara Perks’ evocative two-tier set, on the revolve.

Hugh Maynard is magnificent in the title role, the first black actor from the UK to play him in a professional production. He strides across the stage, fierce, dreadlocked, his voice is sonorous, going from a deep growl to something sustained and almost lyrical.  Sophie-Louise Dann as Mrs Lovett, is a glorious foil to him, playful and eccentric, slapping her pies and trilling on the harmonium as she does her grisly work.

The cast, which includes a community ensemble, handle the rapid musical exchanges, the parallel conversations and the sheer complexity of the rhythms and syncopations with dexterity. Jack Wilcox brings ardour and honesty to the role of Anthony and Christina Bennington, as a fragile, child-like Joanna, conquers some impossibly high notes.

Director Daniel Buckroyd pulls no punches. There is a swift and shocking rape in the middle of a grotesquely masked crowd, and the lust of David Durham’s Judge Turpin for his ward is explicit. Yet it can all be dispelled by a witty lyric. “Politicians are oily, served with a doily”, sings Mrs Lovett. Delicious.

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Verdict
Imaginatively staged and immaculately delivered production of a Sondheim classic
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