Review – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Adelphi Theatre

Tuesday 20 March 2012

The last time we went to the Adelphi Theatre was to see Love Never Dies. Nice to see it again, this time for a check-up of the transferred Sweeney Todd which we saw in Chichester when a transfer seemed inevitable and well-deserved.

And pretty much everything is in place just as it should be although sadly there was no sign of Andrew Lloyd Webber in the little boy’s room on this occasion.

And the sightline problems have been largely resolved. How lovely to have it behind a proscenium arch; we rest our case vis a vis thrust staging.

By “largely resolved” we mean unless you sit at the back of the Dress Circle or the Stalls: the set (Anthony Ward) is very high and the overhang will only allow you a view of the performers’ feet when the cast climb to the more vertiginous heights of the set.

The production is very dark in both senses (extremely gloomy atmospheric lighting by Mark Henderson). Mr Todd returns from down under where he was sent on a trumped-up charge seeking revenge on the Judge who sentenced him. He falls into serial-killing almost by chance after he runs into Mrs Lovett who just happens to have kept his barbering tools safe for him after all those years.

Her pie shop business is struggling but as the ingredients are expensive – and with a body-count higher than Hamlet – has the inspired idea not to waste the meat that Todd is providing. Don’t they realise that red meat is unhealthy? But at least it’s not processed (processing here involves putting it through the mincer three times), then again perhaps human flesh is white meat? We need a government edict to confirm.

Michael Ball’s career-changing turn as the titular slasher is a smasher and is as broodingly magnificent and well-sung as we remembered but Imelda Staunton’s nervously needy slipper-wearing Lovett now seems more desperate and even funnier than before.

SPOILER ALERT Todd’s first victim Pirelli is well played by Robert Burt, but if you come to the show in July comedian Jason Manford will be stepping into the role. Perhaps this will be the first of other ‘stars’ taking on the part. Which might suggest a party game of deciding which other celebrities you’d like to see having their throats cut 8 times a week. We could have great fun with that.

Jonathan Kent’s updating to the 1930s jars less on a second viewing but Act 1 does seem a tad long at 90 minutes and it takes a while before the USP kicks in when he turns Mr’s Lovett’s premises into an abattoir. Dare we suggest a little more slashing wouldn’t go amiss? But Act 2 rips along once Todd has got into his swing and the delicious collage of throat-cutting subversively sung to a reprise of “Johanna” is as thrilling as ever.

The Whingers’ Sweeney Todd tickets were generously donated by Cheap Theatre Tickets

Rating

5 Responses to “Review – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Adelphi Theatre”

  1. Bethany Beal Says:

    *need* to see jason manford as pirelli. i just can’t imagine it!

  2. Sharon Cutworth Says:

    Can Jason Manford even sing? I certainly can’t imagine him belting out the high notes required for the role.


  3. […] The show pulled a straight 4.5-star average from eight reviewers, including five-stars from Michael Billington (Guardian, review), Sarah Hemming (FT, review), Dominic Maxwell (Times, review), as well as our hard-to-please reps from the blogging side of things, the West End Whingers (review). […]

  4. Jasmine Says:

    Jason Manford watch: he’s an excellent Pirelli! He’s got a beautiful, operatic singing voice and a great swagger.

  5. Fred Owen Says:

    Just re-read this after seeing the brilliant show on Saturday; you may not have caught sight of Lord Andrew at the urinals, but we sat behind Mister Sondheim in the stalls.


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