Showtimes Review

The following is the review of Sweeney Todd that was published in Showtimes:

There was great foresight by some members of the committee to engage the services of the local undertaker to discretely remove the bodies that were strewn around the stage. In addition the programme noted that the adjacent car wash was providing a power hose to remove that more stubborn bloodstains that were so much a feature of Kilcock's M.S. production of Sweeney Todd.

Obviously not a show for the squeamish, and for the brave souls that attended the complementary sick bag and smelling salts with each programme was of course most thoughtful and indeed in some cases welcome.

Obviously director Pat Dwyer fed his cast on a diet of visits to pig abattoirs, compulsory incarceration to watch as many horror films as the body could take, and the eating of non-nutritional foods to give them that starved bulimic look.
The stage was very well designed to accommodate the performers. Painted in a nondescript brown/grey colour that added to the macabre atmosphere, coupled with dim lighting created that eerie feeling.

Stage right had an enclosed high platform that ran to the front of the stage, wide enough to accommodate two people standing together. Access by means of a staircase located at the front of stage and by a hidden manner in stage.

Concealed in the structure was the shoot door, and the oven for the gory manufacturing process.

Stage left was Mrs Lovett's substantially built Pie Shop frontage with a solid working door. On top was Sweeney Todd's barber emporium furnished with a brilliant working slide chair, trap door, and appropriate implements of the time. Access to it was by means of a staircase along its length.

At the rear of the stage was a ramp the width of the stage, and a backdrop with Sweeney Todd written in blood read paint!

The basic story of the play is one of revenge for an injustice cruelly applied to Sweeney Todd and his family by Judge Turpin and his Beadle Bamford. Turpin wanted Todd's pretty wife, and a trumped up charge saw Todd transported to Australia. The story is about Sweeney Todd's revenge and his involvement with his accomplice Mrs Lovett.

There is a twist in the story, so if you want to know what it is, next time you see Sweeney Todd advertised you gotta see it!

This is a difficult Stephen Sondheim score to sing. It is very akin to high opera in the format of the composition, when two or more are singing it is quite discordant. It requires deliberate and accurate articulation, which with the very odd exception was what was delivered on the night by the principals and chorus.

Intimidating, strident/defiant stances, staring the audience down was how all of the chorus numbers were performed. Gaunt faces no smiles (not much to smile about) and dull clothes made them all look as if they stepped out of a Dickensian neighbourhood. It was a first class performance on all fronts from the chorus.

Todd Brothers played Sweeney Todd. It was a tour de force performance from Todd portraying his single obsession well pointed and delivered. His make up was a little too white and red eyed. A more subtle approach of less white, more gaunt hollow cheeks would have made him look more deranged. Nonetheless it was first class acting/sing from him, and very enjoyable to watch.

Marie Kelly played Mrs Lovett, London's worst pie maker. Some of her culinary delicacies include succulent rat pie with a hint of mouse, and pussycat en croute.
Perhaps one of the meatier roles (pardon the pun) for her to get her teeth into (opps! did it again). She was very well made up with a pinnacle-designed reddish horsehair wig; lashings of rouge, beauty spot, costumed in a tight fitting bask with contrasting colours in her skirt. Wonderful!

Her acting and singing were as good as her costume, and her under scoring of lines and comic timing was the talent of a composite actress.

John Sweeney (no relation) played Anthony Hope. He was a shipmate of Sweeney who falls in love with Sweeney's daughter Johanna. John gave a fine interpretation of this character, and he sang and acted as the young hero per se.
Sharon Cribbin took on the role of Johanna, and looked just like the English rose that she was meant to be. Fine singing voice that was well capable of singing with ease the complexities of the songs/duets that she had to perform.

There was an interesting cameo role for Yvonne Ramsey as the Beggar Woman. Its very much an on/off part, but Yvonne played it with all the intensity of a performer on stage all the time.

Bobby Harpur played Tobias Ragg. This was a fine performance from him in this major role. A lynch pin in the plot he acted and sung very well and complemented the overall acting in the play.

Brendan Bailey gave an excellent performance as Perelli, Sweeney Todd's first victim. He looked acted and sang like an Italian tenor! Which was what the role required.

Ciaran Duffy played Beadle Bamford the arch villain, and employed by Judge Turpin. Ciaran acted very well in the role, was well dressed and made up to look the character he was. Good playing with his fellow performers it was a very credible performance.

Chris Ramsey had all the physical presence, the resonating voice that was quintessential to any performance of the role of Judge Turpin. Portraying a hard Judge in hard times, he delivered an uncompromising performance of one obsessed with love for his ward, with the power and the means to achieve his goals.

Karl Cassells played Jonas Fogg. Here again another performer giving a fine interpretation of the character that blends into the plot but is important to the overall story in the manner in which it was portrayed.

This is a show where all have to play their part to make it a success. The quotation "there are no small parts just small actors" applies here. All internalised the roles that they were playing in a manner as if they were all principals.

Stage crew has to be an integral part of this show as the safety of cast is in their hands. A well-managed crew by Noel Murphy made it a successful stage production.

There was no choreography per se in the show just good effective groupings devised by Grace McGrath. She obviously drilled the chorus very well and elicited all the defiant attitudes that were an integral part of the show.

Finally M.D. Graham Walsh assembled an excellent orchestra who performed this difficult Sondheim score expertly.

So there you have it! Pies of any composition are defiantly off the menu, and its the electric razor for me for the future.