“When it comes down to it, meat is still meat”
There’s more than one way to skin a cat and Another Soup’s actor-musician-ish Lovett and Todd shows us there’s another way to make meat pies out of murder. Adapting the terrible tale of Sweeney Todd, Dave Spencer spins the focus onto Mrs Cornelia Lovett, asking us to question how their partnership really came about and how she really managed to convince him to be the Paul Hollywood to her Mary Berry in her gruesome take on the Great British Bake-Off.
Having come from Edinburgh last summer, Spencer’s production has an anarchic energy which revels in its rough edges and participatory feel. Will you be selected for a shave or commandeered for a dance, chances are if you’re on the front row you might well be and this genial spirit is the one that prevails despite the subject matter. There’s an almost sketch-show feel to the bawdy comedy and one can imagine it going down a storm on the fringe.
True, the story is dramatically under-developed. An opening sequence sees Cornelia colluding with her sister Amelia in prototype pie-making plans involving babies until circumstances force them to move to Fleet Street where she soon spots the brooding barber (“how about it, Sweeney”) whose fate is inextricably linked to hers. But there’s little attempt to scratch beneath the surface of Cornelia’s issues, Amelia is largely forgotten in the plot and Todd becomes unfeasibly pliable.
And yes, Jo Turner’s score has a scattershot approach which a coherent musical identity for the show never really materialises. Instead, the episodic feel is underscored with tub-thumping folk songs (MD Tom Jack Merivale leads charismatically from his accordion), melodramatic duets, even a tango number – its eclectic to be sure but the enthusiasm from this company, led by Louise Torres-Ryan’s Lovett and Daniel Collard’s Todd, makes it fine festival fare.