Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
This new version of Sweeney Todd at King’s Head Theatre, focusing on the bloodlust not of the barber, but his accomplice Mrs Lovett, is funny, fresh and full of razor-sharp dark wit. It is a spirited and skillful reimagining of the grisly legend of Fleet Street, with completely original words and music by Durham-born company Another Soup.
Crammed into the cosy King’s Head Theatre we have no choice but to be immersed in the evening. So it feels a shame there’s a specific aim, stated in the prologue, for this night to be ‘immersive and interactive’ (words so overused now as to be almost meaningless), because it’s occasionally obstructive. Tiny and well-judged moments really work, such as when a hapless audience member is dragged into the barber’s chair for an unnerving shave. But we aren’t sure about an impromptu group dance, involving some of the audience and leaving out others which breaks the spell (although perhaps it works better in promenade, the form the play started off as).
Far more infectious for us are the energetic performances, in which we feel the full effects of the actors’ immersion into their grisly roles. We love Daniel Collard’s meek and retiring Sweeney. When he meets Mrs Lovett, he’s been enjoying the bachelor life, running his successful barber shop on Fleet Street. But his encounter with this pie entrepreneur and occasional bailiff murderer turns his world upside down.
It’s an inspired reimagining of the Lady Macbeth story, with Louise Torres-Ryan’s sexualised and psychopathic Cornelia Lovett egging on her weak-minded accomplice to kill more customers so she can build her pie shop empire. Torres-Ryan is excellent as the femme fatale and the chemistry of this mis-matched pair is absorbing, particularly during their melodramatic tango dance. The remaining cast range from great to forgettable; Rachel Garnett’s emphatically well-behaved baby-killing sister is great, as is the beady-eyed Eddie Mann as Narrator.
Another Soup need not labour the immersive theatre point. There are plenty of companies jumping on that bandwagon, but making this gruesome old story seem young, funny and new is more impressive.
Lovett + Todd is at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street N1, until 1 August. Performance start 9pm (80 minutes long, no interval). Tickets: £15. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary press ticket.