Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The Cockpit Theatre, London and Edinburgh Fringe.
Reviewed 27th July 2018
Founded in 2016, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street marks Ethereal Theatre’s third year at Edinburgh Fringe. Ethereal Theatre Company have built up a reputation for producing high quality musicals and this production featuring a large cast, impressive band, fresh choreography and set pieces hopes to build on their successes. Sweeney Todd is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most iconic musicals and became a hit in the West End in 2012. Telling the story of Sweeney Todd, the notorious barber, this production claims that audiences need to “prepare to be charmed and perhaps a little blood-drenched. Only the brave will sit in our front row”.
Ethereal Theatre’s production is gritty, dark and menacing. There is an immersive quality with the ensemble hardly leaving the stage, often sitting amongst the audience members leering and jostling the action on stage. The gothic style of the show works well and continues through the clever black and white costumes, designed by Elle Fraser, which are modern, dark and sexy. The space is utilised well and the minimal props aid the storytelling. It’s clear that much work has gone into the production, especially the movement and choreography, designed by Dana Hudson, which was fresh and contemporary. Perhaps a little too modern through during the interesting take on Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton ‘Bullet’ during one scene. Overall the production feels original and a fresh take upon the show due to the direction by Marc Zayat.
The live band excels and, whilst there are some questionable vocals, overall the performance benefits from great vocalists who can evidently take on a character and tell a story. The London preview struggled with some technical sound issues but on the whole the production was slick and despite being performed in the round all the audience were involved. Lighting is especially effective, using blood red and steel blue lighting as well as some aptly timed stroke effectsto heighten the tension.
A big congratulations must be given to the cast who gave everything passionately and energetically through the 2-hour long performance, especially given the almost unbearable heat during this preview performance. The show however, would benefit from an interval between acts. Not only for the actors but for the audience. Ciara Waterfield steals the show as Mrs Lovett. Her take on the love-struck character is fantastic to watch develop throughout the show. Jack Davies’ Sweeney Todd touches on Todd’s lighter side and shows him to be a caring husband and father, almost bullied into his actions. Whilst this is an interesting take on the character, seeing the more sinister side to Sweeney Todd during the dramatic scenes may have made his character more powerful.
In conclusion, this production of Sweeney Todd is gothic and dark, sinister and yet fresh. The company have clearly worked hard to put together this production and their efforts pay off creating a brilliant piece of theatre for Edinburgh Fringe. If you’re looking for a well-produced piece of theatre then why not check out Ethereal Theatre’s Sweeney Todd at Edinburgh Fringe this August.
Ethereal Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd is at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall between 3rd August and 18th August at 22:30. For information and tickets click here.
This review was originally written for and published by LondonTheatre1.
Photo Credit: Daniel Jones