If you have never seen one of the Watermill Theatre’s productions you’re in for a treat. They seem to have the knack of combining superb multi-talented performers with simple staging to achieve fluid, dynamic, involving productions of the highest quality.
John Doyle’s Sweeney Todd is no exception but I wish I’d seen it in its original setting rather than in the New Ambassadors theatre. Although the New Ambassadors is a lovely, small, venue it’s proscenium arch style separates audience and performers in a way that the Watermill Theatre doesn’t. I could visualise this production in its original setting with the audience close to the action, all around it, balconied and stalled – I imagine it was a real delight for those audiences who saw it there. Not that there was anything wrong with what I saw, I just know the experience would have been better in its original location (reminder to self, go see all future Watermill production s before they transfer!). I expect that the Ensemble was also added for the West End, it made the stage seem fuller but I’m not used to seeing ‘hangers on’ at the Watermill (no offence to those who took these roles, you did a grand, if superfluous, job).
I love this story, it has so many facets. Is it a revenge tragedy or the story of a blood-thirsty murderer? How melodramatic should the melodrama be? Who is mad, who is immoral and who is sane? Wonderful stuff.
The cast for this production are on stage all the time and they provide their own orchestra (many of them play several instruments through the show) and chorus. This production chose an open stage, simple but effective props and modern(ish) dress to emphasis story over production. Very effective. We do not need to see masses of stage blood, gore and body bits to know what is going on, the deaths, particularly Lucie’s , are not less horrific when portrayed like this. Paul Hegarty is an excellent Todd with the occasional manic look that reminds you not to trust him. Karen Mann’s Lovett is just a delight, this character should always in future be played by someone with a trumpet! The remainder of the cast were also very good, as we have come to expect from this group, excellent both in character and as ensemble.
A really good night out.