Review: Sweeney Todd, Twickenham Theatre

“Everybody goes down well with beer”

Issues of local provision aside, does London really need any more new theatres, elbowing their way onto an already cluttered fringe? The Twickenham Theatre certainly makes a case for it with this inventive take on Sondheim’s classic Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and with a cracking cast to boot, but the test will be later on when shows that don’t have Olivier winners and musical theatre titans open here and the real job of attracting a regular audience begins.

For the meantime, they can bask in the sold-out signs rightly travelling for the delights of an unmiked production –Benjamin Holder’s band a constant pleasure in its musical skill – and a hugely resourceful interpretation – helmed brilliantly by Derek Anderson – that makes a virtue of the intimacy of this space above a pub and find ever more inventive ways to use it through the cleverness of Rachel Stone’s set and Simon Gethin Thomas’ smoky lighting design.

The Olivier winner is David Bedella who takes on the leading role and whilst darkly swaggering, he doesn’t quite nail the psychological acuity needed to really explicate the bitter complexity at Todd’s heart. Sarah Ingram fares better as Mrs Lovett though, a balance of hilarity and hopelessness that is all the more affecting for being so close up, the direct eye contact here is genuinely disturbing as she simultaneously amuses and appals and asks us with alacrity to acquiesce in her actions.

Good support comes from a fresh ensemble – Zoë Curlett’s beggar woman and Josh Tevendale’s Anthony stand out well – but the real joy comes from the unfussy, gimmick-free approach (apart from the spatterings of blood I suppose…) which lays the attention squarely on the unimpeachable quality of the source material. A good start for the Twickenham then and it will be interesting to see how the Tooting pie shop production that follows later this month stacks up in comparison.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 11th October

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