Filled with blood, gore and cannibalism, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd now showing at the Adelphi Theatre is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Superbly directed by Jonathan Kent, this twisted thriller sees the stage transformed into 19th century, working-class London, exquisitely portrayed by murky rooms, raw metal poles and an undeniably chilling ambience.
The story sees Sweeney Todd return to London after 15 years of false imprisonment in Australia only to find his family have been wronged by the same judge that sentenced him. In a quest for justice and revenge, Todd reopens his barber shop in Fleet Street with the help of the erratic Mrs. Lovett whose pie shop also takes off upon Todd’s return. Together, the daunting and devious pair concoct a plan for their own personal agendas, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.
Michael Ball as the demon barber is spine-tingling throughout, from his spectacular vocals to his eerie demeanour. He is the classic tortured victim seeking revenge. Both dangerous and affectionate, it is hard not to sympathise with him despite his criminal actions. His partner, Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Staunton as the Queen of Pies, Mrs. Lovett, perfectly balances Ball’s depressing nature with her charm and wit, yet proves to be just as dangerous as he is. Staunton injects the much-needed burst of light into this dark musical, shown through her amusing infatuation for Todd and her motherly warmth towards the innocent Toby, convincingly played by James McConville.
The leading roles are supported by an equally talented cast with Luke Brady and Lucy May Barker as the suffering lovers Anthony and Johanna, while Gillian Kirkpatrick proves she is more than just a terrifying, hysterical beggar woman. John Bowe and Peter Polycarpou are excellent as the slimy Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford and Robert Burt makes a particularly comical Pirelli. The ensemble is brilliant, playing a range of characters from Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett’s unaware customers to the frightening patients at Fogg’s Asylum.
Anthony Ward’s set is a joy in itself to watch with its rotating stages and unexpected bursts of noise and steam constantly keeping the audience on edge. Todd’s barber shop is cleverly set on a raised platform allowing space for his hysteria to build and his victims to fall. It is of course, Sondheim’s operatic success that makes this musical what it is. From the dark and mysterious My Friends to the hilarious A Little Priest and the heart-warming Not While I’m Around, the audience has the pleasure to explore the wide range of the entire cast’s musical talent.
Kent’s production of Sweeney Todd is unsettling, terrifying and absolutely spectacular, ticking all the boxes for the perfect musical thriller.
Sweeney Todd is taking bookings at the Adelphi Theatre until 22nd September 2012.