Sunday, October 2

Sweeney Todd – Hope Street Theatre

Sweeney Todd opened his shop in Liverpool’s Hope Street theatre. A show by Off Topic Productions, a northwest based company. The state that “their style is experimental and attempts to put new spins on classic forms of theatre.”

It starts with Mr Todd (Ioseph Myrddin) coming home from imprisonment after being held for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s a new man, a man who will now act revenge on those who wronged him. Mr Todd is reunited with his razors from Mrs Lovett (Elisa Edwards) and has a competition to be the best barber. After taking solace in the room above Mrs Lovett’s bakery he welcomes customers to his barbershop. It is here where his killing spree begins. He and Mrs Lovett become lovers and decide to use the dead corpses for meat in her pies to avoid the meat crisis. Incidentally, the lies are sold during the interval, should you wish to try them. He hears that his daughter Johanna (Steph Goodfellow) is being held by Judge Turpin (Sam Bowyer). The Judge raised her as his own daughter and wishes to marry her. When she refuses, he never lets her out of his home again. A plan must be hatched, but you will have to see the show to find out what that is.

Before I give my opinion on the show, I feel I must say that a special well done to the director Clayton Travis, you hear over recent pandemic times that people have had to step in very last minute in order for the show to continue. Last night was no different as the directors came out before the show opened to say that Clayton will be taking on the show with a script in hand. So well done, I will say though that to have more confidence in yourself the acting was brilliant and hardly looked at the script until then near end of the show. I didn’t think you needed it and it was hard for other actors to play if your reaction. Also felt the script was in the way as you put it under your arm to pick thinks up and take people by the hand.

Whilst all actors and actress’s acting ability was good, I have no doubt in that and will do great things. There were moments I genuinely couldn’t understand because they spoke so fast with some of the text. Also, some actions came out of nowhere one minute it will be a quiet piece of dialogue and then shouting and screaming the next. It was missing the build-up. The dancing was ok when Todd danced with the dead bodies. But I felt it was un-practiced as the dead would go the wrong way. But my biggest point on the show is that I felt it was too long. With an interval it was 2 hours and 40 minutes and some of it could have easily been cut down. Some death scenes felt repetitive. Audience members where I was sitting turned to their phone or even left and I felt that was unfair to the cast because it’s clear they’ve worked really hard on this and due to unforeseen circumstances had to make last minute changes. This show has lots of promise, but it felt more of a R&D and would have benefited from more rehearsals or even an outside eye to watch it to see what could be taken out before opening to the general public. I would like to see this again if it was to come back as this does have a lot of potential.

If you watch this show and wish to speak to someone about the themes discussed the program has some helpful contact information of charities to talk to. This show was definitely experimental and did put a new spin on the show, but I think it’s back to the drawing board to refine it.

Reviewer: Luke Stephenson

Reviewed: 11th March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★