8th December 2018
Leven Theatre, Stokesley
Type of Production
Author: Gordon Richardson
This was I believe the first venture of CBW in using adult actors (past youth members and parents of current members) – I certainly hope it won’t be the last. As a first venture CBW could have chosen an easier option than the difficult tongue twisting lyrics and jarring rhythms of Sweeney Todd – once again I’m glad they didn’t because they set the bar high and hurdled it with ease.
Most are familiar with the story of Sweeney Todd but if not, it is the ultimate tale of revenge of a barber upon the people who stole his wife and daughter, and his unlikely relationship with a pie maker of dubious renown.
Playing the roles of the two young would be lovers, Anthony and Joanna, were Jonny Friesem and Eliza Wappat with suitable chemistry and confidence between themselves. Pirelli (the fake Italian barber) along with many other roles of customer, bird seller and others was played by Michael Brennan demonstrating his mastery of accents and versatility. His one time assistant and latterly assistant in the pie shop, Toby, was played with just the right amount of vulnerability and vagueness by Louisa Culley. Kate O’Brian was superb in her interpretation of the beggar woman with the hidden past as she teetered on the knife edge of a woman being on the fringes of madness.
The two villains of the piece were the ‘Uriah Heap-ish’ Beadle, Nic Clayson, and the equally obnoxious Judge Turpin played in equally foul manner by Dan Brookes. Both gave performances that left flesh creeping thoughts in the psyche of the audience.
The title role of Sweeney Todd and the equally redoubtable, and thoroughly amoral, Mrs Lovett were given wonderfully spine-tingling performances by Chris McCann and Hannah Gawthorpe respectively. As each sang and acted you often felt as an audience member that they were staring right at you and felt all the more uncomfortable for the experience – absolutely stellar performances.
The set was multi-functional and darkly painted with ragged hessian sacking for entrances which immediately gave an impression of the seedier underworld parts of London – this was emphasised by mood lighting with a colour palette just appropriate. Sound was crisp, and costumes looked in keeping with the era and status of their wearers. Props looked good and were moved between scenes by crew and cast seamlessly. With that a word about cast – it is often the case you focus on the principals, but Sweeney is a show that relies on a strong choral element and in that the, small but effective, ensemble excelled.
Finally, a massive well done to the Director Caroline Scott and MD Hannah Gawthorpe for fetching the spectacle to the stage in such a concentrated rehearsal schedule.
A fitting and wonderful antidote to the glitter of Christmas and much welcomed – well done CBW