“Sweeney Todd”

Gate Theatre, Dublin • 2 June 2007 • 7:30pm
Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler.

Director: Selina Cartmell. Musical Director: Cathal Synnott. With David Shannon (Sweeney Todd), Anita Reeves (Mrs. Lovett), Simon Morgan (Anthony), Lisa Lambe (Johanna), Robert Bannon (Tobias), Camille O’Sullivan (The Beggar Woman), Barry McGovern (Judge Turpin), Kenneth O’Regan (Beadle Bamford), Mark O’Regan (Pirelli/Fogg)…

Without doubt the best production of Sweeney Todd I’ve seen… and also one of the most thrilling experiences of my theatre-going life.

It’s a shame that we have to be content with seven musicians… and also that some dialogue has been cut, but the achievements of this production are such that those quibbles are quickly forgotten. The depth of Director Selina Cartmell’s work on the text (both dialogue and lyrics) is outstanding. Combining Brechtian grittiness with metaphoric representations and a solid dose of humour, the end result may be the best exploration of the work to date.

This production also shines through its use of space on the somewhat cramped stage of the Gate Theatre. It benefits greatly from the set design of David Farley, who has designed most recent productions at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. Even the last scenes, notoriously difficult to stage due to the fast-changing locations, are a master-class in the clever usage of space.

One highlight follows another: the virtuosic staging of the first act quartet, the breathtaking “Epiphany,” a perfectly hilarious “Little Priest,” the way Johanna is represented in the asylum as a caged bird, etc… Even the two curtains are awe-inspiring.

The cast is talented and dedicated. Anita Reeves, in her purple wig, is irresistible as Nelly Lovett. David Shannon is a great Sweeney. And Pirelli is given a first-rate treatment by the excellent Mark O’Regan.

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