In Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop, lovingly reconstructed on Shaftesbury Avenue, something very special is going on. Fresh from Tooting, produced by Rachel Edwards and directed by Bill Buckhurst, Sondheim’s musical thriller Sweeney Todd is now being served in deliciously sordid style.
There are only three musicians in this production, and that’s the secret: a piano, a violin and a clarinet accompanying the eight actors, and all of them are equally and amazingly talented. Jeremy Secomb is dark and melancholy as the eponymous villain, while Siobhán McCarthy injects madness as the hysterical Mrs Lovett. The whole cast shine out in what proves to be a stomach-churning and exhilarating play.
Cameron Mackintosh’s bar, which has been turned into the pie shop, only has 69 seats. Those 69 people forget they are watching a musical; they slip from reality and sink into the fantasy as they too are playing roles in this thriller. The atmosphere is utterly intense: the incredible actors are right in front of you, on the tables or even sitting next to you. The piano, which is the main accompaniment in place of an orchestra, emphasises the agitation. Even the acoustics of the pie shop make the whole experience even more intimidating. Sondheim himself was “blown away by its intense intimacy” when he saw the original production in Tooting, eventually persuading the producers to set up shop here.
Sweeney Todd is the first pop-up musical in the West End, and after its inimitable first impression it surely won’t be the last. This remarkable production is definitely one not to be missed. You’ll laugh, you’ll shake in fear and worry if you’ll be next. Arrive early for a sample of Harrington’s tasty pies, and settle in for an evening of lovelorn tales, horrifying crimes, and razor-sharp wit in this hair-raising production.
Photo: Alistair Muir
Sweeney Todd is on at Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop until 16th May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.