Director: Nick Bagnall
Cast: Liam Tobin, Kacey Ainsworth, Emma Dears, Paul Duckworth, Keziah Joseph, Dean Nolan, Bryan Parry, Shiv Rabheru, Mark Rice-Oxley
Review Date: April 16 2019
Performances: April 12 2019-May 11 2019, 7.30pm
Location: Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 120 Minutes incl. an interval
Age Rating: 12+
Nick Bagnall’s bold take on Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical thriller Sweeney Todd at the Everyman Theatre provides an entertaining night whilst upholding a political base, particularly relevant under increasing austerity. Statements like “no denying times are hard”, “these are desperate times” and “are those below serving those up above” are repeatedly sung throughout, enforcing the ideology that unfair treatment results in disastrous events.
Liam Tobin’s enactment of Sweeney Todd offers a drastic emotional shift allowing the audience to empathise with Todd despite his horrific actions. Todd is a broken man who has been wronged by people in power. Liam Tobin’s depiction contrasts with the reference of “Demon Barber” in the title and grasps the truth of the character. Tobin brings heartbreak as Todd loses his connection with Mrs Lovett towards the end after understanding she withheld the truth resulting in him unknowingly murdering his wife.
Tobin embodies Todd’s need for revenge; however, he grapples with the musical depth. Both Liam Tobin and Kacey Ainsworth are backed by Paul Duckworth as dirty Judge Turpin, Mark Rice-Oxley as a crooked beadle and Dean Nolan in the comical but at times harsh role as Pirelli.
The small cast of nine actors and a four-man band creates an intense relationship between character and audience member. Many highlights of the work include witty moments of audience participation. The decision of a small cast and limited props enables an accurate version to appear stripped back and removed from the usual, and for some off-putting gloss of musical theatre. The band lead by Tarek Merchant (Musical Director) perform without television monitors again to allow intimacy and eliminate any unnecessary distraction. Sweeney Todd at the Everyman incorporates a manual revolve centre of the in-the-round staging. The actors use poles in moving the revolve to symbolise the struggle and graft the characters endure. Modern dress is another factor accomplishing relevance in the difficult theatre scene of 2019.
Kacey Ainsworth’s portrayal of Mrs Lovett focuses on the desperation experienced in the pursuit of her perfect life. Her performance of “By The Sea” is very poignant, as Mrs Lovett strives for a position which is clearly never doable in her circumstance. Ainsworth pushes past Lovett’s surface level, expected humour adding a working class, cockney realism and in turn an uncommon approach.
Overall, I found Sweeney Todd to be a strong production with some memorable and moving performances.
Target Audience: Adults Aged 35+
Content: 3/5 – Some Strong Themes
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good
Sweeney Todd runs at the Everyman Theatre until Saturday May 11 2019. To buy tickets, click here or call 0151 709 4776.