Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd fills a void with a bloody and blind quest for vengeance. Those who enter his shop get more than a close shave. The unlucky ones ending up in Mrs Lovett’s rather unsavoury pies, proving you are what you eat.
Sondheim’s masterpiece is by turns hugely funny, terrifying and deeply sad. It works on a number of different levels, is complex but always engaging. In a scene of high comedy, Mrs Lovett explains why hers are ‘The worst pies in London’. In another, Sweeney is reunited with the razor blades he left behind when he was wrongfully imprisoned. There are few scenes like it. On one hand it is disturbing – he regards the razors as his friends and begins to be distanced from the real world – but it is also strangely moving. The musical’s finale is devastating but also hugely cathartic.
James Brining’s thrilling production is set in the late 1970s/early 1980s. It emphasises Sondheim’s message that it’s not just Sweeney who is insane. Through its corruption and inequality, society is totally mad. See Sweeney Todd and you’ll find that it buries itself in your consciousness and refuses to leave. Sweeney Todd has all the emotional impact of the greatest operas. It deserves to be performed by the forces of our Chorus and Orchestra.