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Off with his head

PUBLISHED: 16:39 17 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:09 11 August 2010

Queens Theatre Hornchurch March 09 Dress Rehearsal
Sweeney Todd Written & Directed by Chris Bond
Designer Mark Walters  Lighting by Matthew Eagland
Music by Carol Sloman  Shaun Hennessy as Sweeney Todd
Diana Croft as Mrs Lovett
©NOBBY CLARK
+44(0)7941-515770
+44(0)20-7924-0302
nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

Queens Theatre Hornchurch March 09 Dress Rehearsal Sweeney Todd Written & Directed by Chris Bond Designer Mark Walters Lighting by Matthew Eagland Music by Carol Sloman Shaun Hennessy as Sweeney Todd Diana Croft as Mrs Lovett ©NOBBY CLARK +44(0)7941-515770 +44(0)20-7924-0302 nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

©Nobby Clark nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

You will probably never look another meat pie in the face ever again. But this is probably the worst that can happen to you after a visit to the Queen s theatre to see Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in the second offering in their spring

You will probably never look another meat pie in the face ever again.

But this is probably the worst that can happen to you after a visit to the Queen's theatre to see Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in the second offering in their spring season.

Written and directed by Chris Bond, the man behind many plays including the phenomenally successful story of Lionel Bart, It's a Fine Life, also seen in Hornchurch.

But oddly enough the lasting memory of this play was not the blood and gore littering the set and actors, but the set itself.

Designer Mark Walters turned the stage into Todd's Fleet Street barber shop and Mrs Lovett's pie shop of mid 1800 London, and it was so convincing, that most of us were too absorbed taking it all in and missed the change in the 'noisy sweet wrapper' message now traditional before each performance.

Mark's sets are superb, but this was something else and one could be forgiven for thinking that if the set was that exceptional, it would take something equal to match it.

And as if anticipating that reaction, the big guns of the Cut to the Chase Company were parachuted in.

Julian Littman, Shaun Hennessy, Stuart Organ, Carol Sloman, Diana Croft and Simon Jessop have each commanded that very stage in their individual capacities before, and we had them all in this feast of theatre.

And for good measure they were joined by the newer members of the company each making their own mark in the theatre's history; Sam Kordbacheh, Lindsay Ashworth, Lucy Thackeray and Gregor Henderson-Begg.

It is not often we see such a gathering at Hornchurch, so even more enjoyable to watch this vast volume of experience thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Chris Bond first put the play on at Theatre Royal Stratford in 1973, and in the programme notes tells of how Stephen Sondheim was in the audience and asked him if he could turn it into a musical. Happens all the time I suppose, but true to his word, the musical hit Broadway and the West End with equal force and was showered with awards.

Most people will be aware that the film now on release and starring Johnny Depp is drawn from the very same play seen this week on the Billet Lane theatre's boards.

For me there is something about Chris Bond's work that catches the eye and makes you think, but there always seems to be 'moments' when you feel a little uncomfortable.

The production was essentially a 'typical English guwaff' and it has all the elements.

The Monty Python spurting blood in copious jets, and what looks like the contents of a butcher's wheelie bin in buckets strewn around the stage, which some might think a bit over the top, but it is quite funny.

And there is the rub with this show. I think some would call it a hybrid in that it is not quite a rib tickling comedy or a ghoulish hide under the pillow scare for the more macabre minded; there are some quite dark elements in the plot which is built on revenge rather than tawdry making a bob or two out of spare parts.

Chris Bond's work does challenge, and though you might not always like what you see from the auditorium, he is adept at mixing realism with comedy and it is good theatre.

This presentation was superb, quality acting and exercising the brain cells on the way home is everything you need from theatre, and the Queen's is now bringing in a regular stream of such quality work for its patrons.

Being of a 'Python' mind myself as was most of the audience, there was laughter at the gore, but I came away with the impression that this was a trifle strained and may possibly not be to everyone's taste.

That said, I think most will enjoy the experience, particularly as it has been so well put together.

The play runs until Saturday March 28 with tickets from £13.50 to £22 and available from the box office on 01708 443333.


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