Site specific pies: Sweeney Todd @Tootingartsclub

Tooting Arts Club's production of Sweeney Todd, staged in Harrington's Pie Shop Tooting, at least until they manage to squeeze in some extra dates. It might now be sold out, but it might be worth killing for a ticket to see

The 32-seat confines of the pie shop give the piece an added dimension of claustrophobia and suspense, particularly as the cast act, sing, bleed and sweat at times inches away from your face. It is like the musical equivalent of fun fair ride. You may want to let out a yelp at times, but you are going to have a a hell of time.

Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, which has shown an incredible versatility in being adapted for opera, concert, film and small-scale productions. But this version still manages to surprise.

With some simple but inspired staging, clever use of light and shadows, from the moment the music starts you know you are going to be in for a delightfully creepy evening.

And you begin to appreciate how scary this show can be when things are happening right in front of you, or on top of you or around you as the cast get up on the tables or move around you. Given that you are so close to the performers there is plenty of opportunity for banter and between performers and audience, or just taking in the smell of the shaving foam.

It helps with a terrific cast headlined by Siobhan McCarthy as Mrs Lovett and Jeremy Secomb as Sweeney Todd. Ian Mowat as Beadle Bamford manages to wring out a delightful evilness in his role, relishing every moment he is on stage. Kiara Jay doubling as Pirelli and the beggar woman also has a wonderful time in both roles. Joseph Taylor as Tobias delivers a subtle and emotional performance to the table as well.

Under the music direction of Ben Cox, this claustrophobic production is tight and disciplined. It was the first time I had heard some of the more complex counterpoint numbers staged with such precision and clarity.

The duet Kiss Me where Anthony (played by Nadim Naaman) and young Johanna (Grace Chapman) plot an escape has never sounded more dramatic and exciting than it is here. And you will be forgiven for thinking there is more than just a three piece band with such fine music making.

All told a surprise treat in Tooting. If you had ordered in advance you can even have one of Harrington's famous pies and mash with liquor before the show starts.

Tooting Arts Club was established in 2010 by Rachel Edwards and Sue Dunn. The show received some funding through Kickstarter. It will be fascinating to see what they do next...

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And post show musings with @johnnyfoxlondon on Tooting Broadway high street follows...




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