Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Sweeney Todd at the Twickenham Theatre in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Sweeney Todd at the Twickenham Theatre in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Sweeney Todd at the Twickenham Theatre in London by Ginger Hibiscus
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18 Sep REVIEW: Sweeney Todd at the Twickenham Theatre

Victorian London. Poverty runs riot through filthy streets, dodging the horse-drawn carts as they thunder past, and wheezing through air thick with smoke. It’s an unforgiving environment for the penniless, so when Benjamin Barker returns in search of his wife and daughter, he’s forced back into his old profession, despite the fact it could reveal his true identity. Under the pseudonym of Sweeney Todd, he picks up his razors again, and opens a barber’s shop above Mrs Lovett’s pie store. With beef at a premium, Mrs Lovett is the purveyor of the, “Worst Pies in London,” stuffed with gritty fillers as she searches for sources of cheap meat. And much to her delight, Mr Todd might have just the answer…

In the latest production of Stephen Sondheim’s grizzliest musical, David Bedella stars as the eponymous antihero. As he learns of the death of his wife, Todd grows impassioned and strategic, scheming to satiate his emerging thirst for blood. With a remarkable performance, Bedella delivers a flawless vocal, a wonderfully deep, rich tone that forcefully puts across the context of exactly why Mr Todd starts cutting throats. Opposite him, Sarah Ingram’s Mrs Lovett is a fascinating interpretation; jealous, controlling and desperately infatuated, we see much more vulnerability in her than in previous productions, as we almost (almost, but still don’t quite) start to empathise with her.

Sondheim’s score is as stunning as ever, piqued with moments of exquisite staging. The masquerade scene is utterly unforgettable, as guests are stirred into a vicious frenzy, and dancing gives way to brutally uninvited advances. With so many bodies behaving like a pack of animals just a couple of metres away, we share in the intensity with Lucy, experience her nightmare with her. Equally striking is the Bedlam scene, a dark and agonising vision of Victorian “psychiatry,” where the “insane,” are treated as criminals. Johanna resides there, weak and forgotten, played by Genevieve Kingsford in a stunning professional debut.

The production isn’t without it’s faults. It didn’t feel terribly well adapted for being shown with an audience on three sides; Sondheim’s lyrics are notoriously detailed and when they’re being sung facing a different direction without a microphone, they can be hard to make out. Also, having seating so close to a raised stage does also give the impression of perpetually looking at people’s crotches, which detracts slightly from the otherwise fantastic show, but such an intimate theatre is ideal for Sweeney Todd, heightening the intensity as every performance excels under the close-quarters scrutiny.

In short, it’s a bloodbath, but in all the right ways.

For tickets and information:

Star Rating

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