Review - Sweeney Todd at Harrington's Pie and Mash Shop on Shaftesbury Avenue

Tooting Arts Club’s production of Sweeney Todd at Harrington’s Pie and Mash shop in Tooting was a show I was absolutely desperate to see last year. The idea of seeing this legendary show inside the oldest pie and mash shop in London seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately though, for several reasons, I missed it. I was absolutely gutted! Until earlier this year it was announced that thanks to the persuasion of none other than Stephen Sondheim himself, the production would be transferring to London’s West End for a limited period, and the interior of Harrington’s was going to be reproduced in its entirety too. I was not missing out again, so I took a deep breath, mentally added a 0 or two to my bank balance, and bought myself a ticket.

And thank god I did!
I honestly could not imagine Sweeney Todd being staged differently now. From the shadowy, candlelit corners where the beggar woman lurks, to the steep ominous steps that lead to Sweeney’s shop, and even the slightly cramped seating benches at which the audience sit, every single element is perfect.

Prior to seeing the show, I was interested to see how scenes not set within the pie shop would be staged. Subsequently I was impressed by the way in which places such as Joanna's room and Fogg's Asylum were established through the use of clever lighting changes which isolated certain areas of the room, candles to give the areas more atmosphere or warmth, and sound effects to give extra context. The production as a whole delineates the bleak, darkness of Victorian London and is a fabulous example of poor theatre done absolutely right.

As the demon barber, Jeremy Secomb oozes terrifying coldness. He stares down the audience with an unnerving, dead eyed glare which is enough to put even the most comfortable audience members on edge. No one is safe from the swing of Sweeney’s razors either. Secomb jumps on to tables, slides along benches and threatens the throats of several unsuspecting spectators, with terrifying unpredictability. One minute he’s crying, the next he’s laughing manically. He gives a truly incredible performance. While delivering a show stopping of rendition of Epiphany I was stuck by the power behind his voice, and the way in which he makes Sweeney a simultaneously sinister and sympathetic character. Meanwhile, Siobhan McCarthy brings the perfect amount of comedy to her portrayal of the sinister Mrs Lovett, and has a fabulous voice to boot. As a duo, Secomb and McCarthy are outstanding.

Nadim Naaman is effortlessly charismatic as Anthony, a sailor who saves the life of Sweeney Todd and then falls in love with Joanna Barker, a shut in but spirited young woman played perfectly by Zoe Doano. The pair’s duet Kiss Me was a hilarious tongue twister of a song, and a real act one highlight. 

I was honestly blown away by every single performance in this hugely memorable production. I loved Joseph Taylor as the endearing Toby, Kiara Jay wowed the audience with her versatility, playing both the Beggar Woman and Pirelli, while Ian Mowat was a hilariously oily Beadle Bamford and Duncan Smith a creepy Judge Turpin. And when not playing their individual characters, the actors became a multitude of ensemble members. It was amazing to see how Sweeney Todd, a musical often known for its large scale, could be performed by such as small company. The wall of sound created by just 8 actors and 3 musicians was incredible and a testimony to their talent.

I am so, so pleased that I had a chance to see this incredibly innovative production. It’s definitely an audience experience that will stay with me. Immersive theatre at its finest! 

Verdict - 4 1/2 stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome