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2006 Productions:-

The Ballad of Sweeny Todd - written and directed by Daniel Curley

Critic's Comments

"This innovative, lively and enjoyable adaptation of the well-known tale of the demon barber of Fleet Street was, in the author's own words, "heavily influenced by melodrama, music hall and Grand Guignol".  I am not aware that I have seen much of the Guignol genre before but in practice it seemed to mean stylised chorus scenes and narration, the latter from the excellent ballad seller, punctuating the flow of dialogue from the principals at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next.  While I would have preferred to have had brooding music and a smoke machine to set the scene of a noisy, brutal and dirty London, as well as signalling the beginning of the play, the director preferred a silent opening featuring the arrival of the denizens of London.  This is a matter of taste but I did like very much many of the other chorus or company scenes, particularly the music hall at the beginning of Act 2 and the almost balletic scene where Sweeny cuts throats to the accompaniment of classical music.  The latter was inspired and strangely moving as Sweeny, with the connivance of Mrs Blort, immerses himself in a river of blood in the form of a long red silk sheet that moves through the outstretched arms of his victims and across the stage.  The stage itself was sparsely set, with only two street lamps to denote the era but this may have owed much to the venue, which I understand required the set to be struck every night and therefore precluded scenery.  Costumes were convincing, with many grubby beggars contrasting with the well-to-do, wealthy crooks or civic officials.  Thus, all named parts had costumes that set them apart from the rest of the company.  The main characters were strong, particularly Sweeny and his paramour Mrs Blort.  Unusually a woman played Sweeny but she was clearly meant to be a man and was totally convincing.  Sweeny was physically menacing, restless, tortured and totally focussed on exacting revenge for the injustices perpetrated on his family.  Although his murders were reprehensible there was huge sympathy for this character, which was clearly driven by forces beyond his control.  Mrs Blort, by contrast, was calculating and it was she who suggested using human flesh to make the "best pies in London".  Although this was very funny in that macabre world that we inhabited in "The Ballad of Sweeny Todd" we slowly began to see that her sights were set higher than on achieving iconic culinary status.  She wanted a man, Sweeny, and had deliberately withheld knowledge that Sweeny's wife still lived, earning her the fate meted out to so many others in Sweeny's bloodlust - a slit throat.  This pair, Sweeny and Mrs Blort, worked superbly together, demonstrating excellent dramatic skills, with good timing, facial expressions and body postures.  Supporting cast was also good, with Beadle, another part played by a woman, displaying a distinctly softer touch that contrasted with the aptly named Judge Blackheart.  This was a bold and welcome move by a local theatre company, providing active participation for many principals and company members, perhaps far more so than many plays.  Many styles of drama and music were displayed and the overall effect was striking, effective and enjoyable.  Great credit to the author and director Daniel Curley and to the committee for taking on what may have appeared experimental at first but worked very well."           
     Stewart Adkins-National Operatic and Dramatic Association

For awards received for this play see "Sweeny Todd"

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