Review: Sweeney serves up tasty treat

By Rachael McNaught

2 comments
Mrs Lovett persuades Sweeney Todd to let her use human flesh to improve the flavour of her meat pies.
Mrs Lovett persuades Sweeney Todd to let her use human flesh to improve the flavour of her meat pies.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Presented by Waipawa M & D; directed By Scott Andrew
Until this Saturday, July 30
Reviewed by Rachael McNaught

Originally written as a penny dreadful and set in 1785, the story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one etched in the cobbles of London to become an urban legend spanning the centuries.

It is Sondheim and Wheeler's 1979 musical version, which has stood the test of time and under Scott Andrew's direction, we are transported to 1930s London.

Sent to an Australian penal colony under falsified charges, Benjamin Barker has returned home 15 years later to learn that his wife has gone and his daughter has become the ward of the judge who sentenced him. With his life in tatters, Barker renames himself Sweeney Todd and plots his revenge. Mrs Lovett stumbles into his secret and persuades him to let her use the human flesh to improve the flavour of her meat pies.

There have been many adaptations but Andrew's vision is one so believable it allows the audience to empathise with the barber, and the baker, and the ward, while unashamedly exposing the truth within the desperate minds of a poverty stricken 1930s London.

It is darker than some versions, but the darkness comes from the exposure of truths without sensationalising them.

Balancing that truth with entertainment is an incredibly difficult task for any storyteller, but Andrew does it brilliantly.

Andrew's vision is the catalyst, but the backbone of this production is its outstanding cast and production crew. The story of Sweeney Todd relies on strong characters whose passions collide. Right from the start, the strength of every character on stage enveloped the audience and drew us into their world. The insanely talented Sam Draper was an inspired choice for the lead role and the amazing Rose McDonald as Mrs Lovett provided a passionate, yet practical match for Todd's vengeance-fuelled frustration.

Intertwined with the main story was the story of young love between the stunning Johanna (Holly Purcell) and ballsy Anthony (Connor Hirst), but these are well balanced by the darkness bought by David Berry as the Judge and the psychotic wench portrayed by Jules Hamilton.

This was a show worthy of a stage far bigger than CHB and we are so fortunate to have a group with such strength of talent.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is playing at the CHB Municipal Theatre until Saturday. Tickets through the CHB Municipal Theatre, Waipawa, phone (06) 857 8117 or through Ticketdirect.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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