It is not often you see a musical where a Blood Technician (Julia Wills) is mentioned in the Production credits but at least you have some warning of what might ensue. I also didn’t think I’d be saying this but lurking beneath the gore and grisly humour, Sweeney Todd is a touching love story.
The tone is set with the menacing opening number as the full cast appear through the mist to tell us the tale of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sweeney Todd is Curve Community’s third production and tackles the challenging 1979 Sondheim musical with impressive style. Siobhan Boyd’s costume designs add to the atmosphere with splashes of red the only colour in the otherwise many-shades-of-grey of London’s lowlife. Opening up the Studio space also gives the ensemble opportunity to evoke London’s back streets, back alleys and the horror of a Victorian asylum.
Sweeney Todd is not a nice man, nor is Mrs Lovett an appealing character yet the black humour coursing throughout the musical together with underlying themes of obsession, unrequited and lost love, you can’t help rooting for them. This is due to the self-assured performances of many of the leading actors: brooding Jak Skelly is a terrifyingly clinical Todd, Mary-Jean Caldwell makes Mrs Lovett’s unusual culinary techniques almost endearing and Christopher Smith brings raw emotion and yearning to Anthony. Keir Barradell is outstanding as Tobias as he comes to confront the real story behind the success of Mrs Lovett’s meat pies. But the whole cast stand out as the technical challenges of singing in counterpoint and coping with wordy lyrics (only about a fifth of the musical is spoken) are delivered to a professional standard.
Artistic Director Paul Kerryson has managed to draw amazing performances from his predominantly young cast and I am sure many will continue to be seen on stage in the future.
Sweeney Todd’s story is well known, verging on folklore and legend, maybe a warning against capitalism. However, any mention of this infamous character must include the words ‘cut-throat razor’ and ‘pie’. Add revenge, love and A Curve Community Production and you have a recipe for a chilling but enjoyable night at the theatre.
Sweeney Todd is at Curve until 11 August www.curveonline.co.uk
All photos by Pamela Raith Photography