Everyman theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd was just the type of treat Mrs Lovett’s pies were, with their dark ingredients. As the scene was set, drizzle adding to the atmosphere of Victorian gloom, I couldn’t imagine what I was in store for.
David Stephens as Sweeney was magnificent, getting into the obsession and rage of the character with a captivating voice, whilst still playing the dark humour well too, even adding in one or two Jack Sparrow slips as with Depp in the film version; every moment with our principal character on stage a treat.
Other great performances come from Joan Hoctor as Mrs Lovett, balancing all aspects of her character well, with a singing voice that adding her accent without it ever overtaking the songs, which can happen in some performances, providing most of the laughs for the audience, even as the second half of a dark duo. Sondhiem was a genius for making someone who is, on paper loathsome so sympathetic, even with her eviller revelations, and Hoctor showcased that well.
Other characters played notably were Olivia Hopper’s Joanna, managing to play her descent into madness on top of what would otherwise be a stock romantic character and the beggar woman played by Sarah Chew, both entertaining and disturbing as the more traditional mad woman whose songs drive the action of the second act.
Pirelli was a scene stealer, and when the audience see his fate we can’t wait to see Sweeney’s gruesome plan unfold, and the beadle was a classic pantomime style villain that was fun to see prowl around.
The ensemble cats were also brilliant, their harmony for the Ballad of Sweeney Todd powerful and pitch perfect, and the costumes were, as the Victorian theme demands, absolutely gorgeous.
The show had very few slip ups, all forgiveable – while the judge’s actor, Clive Riches got under the disgusting skin of the character, his part of his duet brought the other half of the performance, from Sweeney himself down a tad, though he was fine when he sang solo.The role of Anthony’s played by Joe Wiltshire Smith performed well, but didn’t make me think his character was any more than the traditional romantic, conversely for such a well-worn character type probably the most insane of all the madmen and women of the show.
A final misstep was the bookending of modern characters looking into the story, though perhaps it was meant to symbolise how intriguing the character is despite the age of the setting and folk story, but it really only took the audience’s mind off a world the cast had done so well to establish.
All in all, it was an exciting, atmospheric performance abuzz with energy; eyes glued firmly on the main stars performances, lavishly acted and staged, a brilliant performance of a dazzlingly ominous iconic show.