"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Theatre and Colchester Mercury
at Colchester Mercury
have those strident organ chords sounded so menacing.
herald a dark, powerful production from the Mercury's Artistic
Director Daniel Buckroyd. Behind
a grimy grey tarpaulin, Sara
compact set waits for the action to begin. On the revolve, parlour,
pie shop. bake-house
Sweeney's sinister salon, plus
a lovely pageant cart for the street mountebank Pirelli.
the shadows beyond, inn signs to suggest the rest of Fleet Street.
in the foyer, the columns have barber-pole stripes, the ushers have
aprons stained with gore ...
of ten is supported by a local community chorus – they shine in the
big scenes: the satisfied customers, the gibbering maniacs. This
means that much of the other
work has a chamber feel – the quartet at the end of the first act,
the trio after the first murder,
impressive cast of principals, led by Sophie-Louise Dann's nervy,
Mrs Lovett – clutching her cleaver as she hatches her new business
plan - and Hugh Maynard's brooding, obsessive
barber, his anger simmering beneath the surface and exploding in
moments of terrifying rage. Kara Lane makes a strong beggar woman,
Julian Hoult a reptilian Beadle. Outstanding singing and acting from
David Durham as the corrupt Judge
Turpin, and from Simon Shorten as Daniel O'Higgins, aka the fake
Italian barber. The two young lovers, who pale slightly in the
writing against all these grotesque villains, are engagingly played
by Jack Wilcox and Christina Bennington. The boy Tobias is given a
charming, ingenuous character by Ryan Heenan, and Daniel Buckley is
Jonas Fogg, proprietor of the lunatic asylum. And,
like most of the company, he's a versatile member of the ensemble.
production is hard-hitting, uncompromising in its handling of the
darker themes. But of course there is humour here too, notably from
the eccentric Mrs L – the Little Priest number a show-stopping
delight, as it invariably is.
Haslam is the Musical Director, tucked away with his band in the
upper darkness. Like those opening chords, the general tone is harsh
and loud. Not all of Sondheim's clever, tricky lyrics were audible,
though, and it was noticeable that one of Sweeney's
most successful numbers was his tender hymn to his long-lost razors.
was an uncut “musical thriller”; while it was good to have the –
agonisingly realistic – tooth-pulling sequence, for instance, three
hours, including interval, is a long time to concentrate on the
complex lyrics and elaborate
settings of Sondheim's operatic penny dreadful. Could
do with just a little trim, perhaps.