Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first came to the forefront in the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls.

Sweeney Todd and his 'friend'

Sweeney Todd and his 'friend'

Todd is a barber who slices the necks of his customers before dropping them into the basement of his shop, causing them to break their necks or skulls. His business partner Mrs Lovett then uses the flesh of his victims to bake into the meat pies for her pie shop. The eatery, once on the verge of closing due to the lack and cost of meat becomes a raging success thanks to their unusual arrangement.

The tale became an urban legend in London and a staple of Victorian conversation during the mid- 1800s and has been retold many times in both theatre and film.

If you have seen and enjoyed the Tim Burton version of Sweeny Todd you will not be disappointed as the movie has stuck well to the stage version in terms of the songs and the script. One difference in this production however is that it's set in the present day. I was concerned that it wouldn't work as a contemporary piece of theatre, but after the initial adjustment, my opinion was changed. Setting it so close to home made it more relatable for the audience and all the more thrilling. At least in the movie, the audience has time in their favour to make it less of a perceived threat- but set in the here and now makes you think twice about going to get your hair cut or to the local pie shop!

David Arnsperger and Janis Kelly were the perfect partners in crime. To my surprise they were very affectionate, cheeky and playful with one another. In other adaptions I've seen, Mrs Lovett's love was not requited by Todd and he didn't entertain the notion of fooling her into believing it either. It was refreshing to see a change in this dynamic even if it was ever so fleetingly.

I wondered how they would tackle the trap door where Todd sends his victims- the stage was expertly was divided into two levels. Todd's shop was at the top so the recently butchered could be tipped into the 'basement' below and topple out onto the stage for even more dramatic effect.

The murders were carried out very cleanly too, with a single blood line down the victims chest after their throats had been slit. There was opportunity to turn this musical into a bloodbath but the violence was kept under control for the younger audience members.

Described as a musical thriller- it did nothing but thrill throughout. I loved the mix of comedy and horror, of dark and light. The opening and closing of the show was particularly intense- twenty or so extras singing The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, directly to the audience under a red light. The intensity of the many voices and the sheer power of the orchestra was uncomfortable and the vibrations felt throughout the theatre were goosebump inducing.

If you're a fan of horror, you will lap this up- it's gritty, it's sinister and it leaves you with a nasty taste in your mouth. You certainly won't be eating meat pies for a while I can promise you that!

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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