Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Chichester Festival Theatre


I thought the 30s setting might be a problem. Pointless, gratuitous, self-indulgent.

In the event, it mattered very little. And it did give the design people [Anthony Ward] some great opportunities to create a fantasy of the grimy, grubby corners London of the inter-war years, cracked tiles, broken windows, metal shutters and grilles. And the people, too, the menial downtrodden Londoners in their offices, in the asylum and Mrs Lovett's popular pie shop with its gaudy neon sign.

Adam Pearce first to appear, first to sing, typically detailed character work from a cast impressively strong in depth. Peter Polycarpou was excellent as the Beadle, as was Gillian Kirkpatrick as the Beggar Woman.

But the standing ovations, inevitably, were for Ball and Staunton, both seasoned musical theatre stars, and both incredibly good in Sondheim's blood-soaked melodrama. Ball, with his brooding presence and golden voice, and Staunton's precise comedy timing, worked like magic, and brought out all the pathos and the humour of this dark revenge drama.

There's much talk of a transfer to town, a second hit for Chichester this season. I'm not sure that the circular metal walkway over the thrust would work, but this dream casting could surely not be improved.

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