SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim book by Hugh Wheeler.
Harringtons Pie and Mash Shop 3 Selkirk Road SW17 0ER To 29 November 2014.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366/020 7359 4404 (24 hours).
Review by Carole Woddis 27 Octpber.
A wonder to wonder at.
This is the tale of a community, Tooting in south east London and two producers with a vision as well as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, arguably Stephen Sondheim’s most popular and loved musical.
Tooting sits betwixt the beginnings of the posh Home counties and the `inner London’ urban sprawl of Brixton and Peckham. Alive with multiculturalism, it’s nowhere more so than in Selkirk Street, off Tooting High Road, inhabited by Halal butchers, local barber shops and Harrington’s Pie and Mash shop, the oldest business in SW17, still going strong after 106 years.
For the next six weeks, there you will find Sweeney, Mrs Lovett and the rest, resplendent in Beverley Mason’s pie shop, once again at nightfall reprising the doleful tale of the fictional barber whose thirst for revenge after transportation and gross injustice leads him to serial killing on a grand and – thanks to Mrs Lovett’s pies – culinary scale.
As critics and public alike crammed into the 50-seat shop, we could never have dreamt quite how alarmingly or effectively director Bill Buckhurst had corralled his hugely experienced cast into a postage stamp acting space. Tooting Arts Club may have no actual theatre venue, peripatetically turning up wherever a venue presents itself. But as Buckhurst’s credits show, his is professionalism of the highest order.
By turns, it’s lurid, powerful, touching – Sweeney contains some of Sondheim’s most lyrical writing in `I feel you Johanna’ as well as some of his most bleakly true and witty (`the crunching sound, you hear, my dear, is man devouring man’).
Buckhurst is blessed with the towering, glowering figure of Australian Jeremy Secomb as Sweeney and the delicious Siobhán McCarthy as Mrs Lovett. Add Nadim Naaman’s sweet tenor voiced Anthony, Kiara Jay as a very funny female Adolpho Pirelli, barber and charlatan, and gruffly fine and sinister accounts of Justice Turpin and Beadle Bamford alongside younger cast members and you have a wholly exceptional, unforgettable performance.
Three musicians – Benjamin Cox piano, a clarinet and violin – provide a small but magnificent musical service. But the whole production conveys professionalism married to local endea
vour and enthusiasm that is nothing short of triumphant.
Johanna Barker: Grace Chapman.
Beggar Woman/Adolpho Pirelli: Kiara Jay.
Mrs Nellie Lovett: Siobhán McCarthy.
Beadle Bamford: Ian Mowat.
Anthony Hope: Nadim Naaman.
Sweeney Todd: Jeremy Secomb.
Judge Turpin: Duncan Smith.
Tobias Ragg: Joseph Taylor.
Director: Bill Buckhurst.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Amy Mae Smith.
Sound: Joshua Richardson.
Musical Director: Benjamin Cox.
Presented by Tooting Arts Club in association with Harrington’s Pie and Mash.
Supported by the Arts Council, Kickstarters, Wandsworth, Bi-Jingo and Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward and many, many other individuals.