King’s Head Theatre – until 1 August 2015
Guest reviewer: Sarah McPartlan
This Another Soup Theatre production focuses on the story of Cornelia Lovett, the pie-maker and the relationship between her and the “demon barber”, Sweeney Todd. The concept is intriguing, one where Mrs Lovett is portrayed as a coldblooded murderess who manipulates Todd into doing her will and her unwilling accomplice.
For those who know and love the Sondheim version of the story, the plot deviates at several times: there is no mention of Johanna, nor the Judge Turpin, which are vital aspects of the original musical which help explain Sweeney’s back story. In this take, we see Lovett’s back story, meeting her mother and sister along the way. However, this does not explain her character and motivation nearly as well as Sondheim does for Sweeney.
The music also does little to assist with fleshing out the characters and helping develop the audience’s emotion towards them. The folk sounding majority of the show, which had a different sound than to many musicals I have seen, which I liked. The show opened with a strong number ‘Push It Down,’ which looked promising, however a large portion of the remaining numbers were spent singing about “pies”. Whilst the odd pie number (as Sondheim shows with ‘Little Priest’) can steal a show unfortunately there were too many numbers about the food and less about the psyche of the characters or the relationship between them.
This all being said the 2 leads, Louise Torres-Ryan playing Cornelia Lovett and Daniel Collard playing Sweeney Todd were a joy to watch. Louise is perfect for this kind of intimate setting with her face so expressive I was captivated by her before she even spoke. Daniel played a man in love, besotted by his betrothed and not always ruled by the brain nicely and the chemistry between them was good. Eddie Mann was our narrator and he had a commanding presence and his musical abilities when he took to the guitar or percussion often helped lift some of the more forgettable numbers. Cornelia Lovett’s sister, Amelia Dyer, had a one of the stronger voices in the cast but was given a difficult job with the lack of character development in the piece for her and this relationship between the Lovett sisters is one that could have been explored more effectively through some of the music.
The setting at the Kings Head was a good (albeit warm) choice for the show and did enable the audience to really be up close and personal with the actors, even on occasion getting a shave by them or dancing with them. It however seemed not to know how to place itself, at one moment the audience were expected to get involved and the actors come hurtling through the 4th wall, yet the next it reverted to the traditional musical theatre format of the audience watching the show from their seat. The show has great potential in the premise but needs developing further.