Category Archives: Theatre

The Everyman Festival Forecast by Eifion Ap Cadno.

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Will it be sunny? Will it be overcast? Will it rain? These three questions, while perhaps a little trite and unnecessary – ‘what’s the weather like?’ would suffice – will never be truly answered in Wales. Travel to the Mediterranean, the North or South Poles (take your pick) or the Amazon and you will have your meteorological answers, but will you have your fix of sultry Shakespeare?

The biggest of its kind in Wales, The Everyman Festival – having already delivered the bloody goods in a highly commended production of Sweeney Todd – is currently thigh-high in the boots of Blackadder II, raking in a mass of glowing reviews. The question is: can they rake in more?

Opening on 25 July and running until 2 August, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew certainly promises big things – and I don’t just mean Petruchio’s ego – with an excellent cast and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s own Rebecca Gould sat in the director’s chair.

Lucentio loves Bianca, Bianca loves Lucentio; Bianca’s father Baptista declares she’ll not marry until her elder, venomous sister Katherine be wed. Unfortunately it seems dear Kate’s only redeeming quality is her great big, enormous dowry – steady on. Will the charismatic but penniless Petruchio prove the charmer, or shall her sting find his tail? Cue a battle of wit, words and willpower; a whirlwind of disguises and a domestic that will end in tears, or in kindness.

If your theatrical appetite still isn’t sated, then have no fear: the show runs until 2 August so you can see it repeatedly! For those little drama divas whose cravings bite deep, andGo Productions’ Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. runs in tandem from 26 July. You and all the family will be transported to an underwater world – especially if it rains – where Ariel the beautiful mermaid Princess will be waiting to take you on a bright, musical adventure.

And remember folks, Blackadder II is still on until Monday 21 July. Fans and newcomers alike can be sure to find comedy gold in them thar episodes Bells; Potato;and Beer. Here’s a review http://www.buzzmag.co.uk/uncategorized/blackadder-ii-stage-review/

There is an on-site Festival Bar and should the heavens open all seats are sheltered so you can remain dry and merry, watching the cast members slog it out for your entertainment. Last year I had the privilege of seeing their cracking Midsummer Night’s Dream performed at sea, such was the power of the deluge. With slips, trips and brollies, believe me it only adds to the show!

Further Information

Tickets for Blackadder II and The Taming of the Shrew are £12-£16 (£2 off for under 18s). Tickets for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. are £7 each or £25 for a family ticket for four people.

For more information and to book tickets on-line visit the Everyman website: www.everymanfestival.co.uk or call the box office on 0333 6663366

Eifion Ap Cadno

Sherman theatre Tour and Autumn Season musings by Sam Pyce

 

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The Sherman Theatre has, in recent years, become the most dynamic, forward-thinking and vibrant centre for the arts in Wales. Its productions are idiosyncratic in style yet universal in their message. And I’m sure you already knew all that. But haven’t you ever wondered how it looks beneath the surface? Well, guess who’s going to give you a whistle-stop tour from the comfort of your very own phone/laptop screen. Yes, me.

As part of my work experience, I got to spend a week roving around different theatres, snooping behind-the-scenes, probing directors and being generally nosy. And you lucky dogs get to know all about it through this mini blog. Not so I can brag – god forbid. Rather to alert you of all the bubbling arty hubbub that’s happening right underneath your nose.

The Sherman isn’t just made up of the one theatre. In fact, the entire building has the potential to become a stage. Lighting rigs even adorn the walls of the foyer should the Sherman staff feel the need to break into spontaneous dance. A regular appearance in the foyer is an open mic artistic event called Scratch That Itch  supported by National Theatre Wales TEAM, where ten artists perform for ten minutes each to relieve themselves of their, erm, itch. Not a literal itch, of course; otherwise I’d advise some sort of cream.

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The main theatre is more of a Grecian coliseum blissfully devoid of a bad seat. It is that broad sense of inclusion and versatility that compliments the aim of the Sherman.

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The ‘other’ theatre, soon to be named The Studio, is even more versatile – a bare, black room housing nothing but chairs and an eerie white table. This space clearly lends itself to new writing allowing the text to stand unadulterated and unobscured. If raw, unabashed performance is what you’re after, this is the place to go.

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You’d think seeing the set design workshop would spoil the magic but I think it only enhances it. The workshop comprises assorted detritus that looks extracted from a plethora of different realms, but are all mere replicas fashioned in incredibly deceiving ways. For instance, the mirrors are not glass but Perspex to avoid smashing. I guess all that glitters really isn’t gold, but probably spray-painted plastic.

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The versatility continues in the rehearsal rooms which act as essentially blank canvases for anything remotely arty ranging from Shakespeare to high-octane street dance. The rooms are so immodestly naked that not much can be said of them apart from the immense feeling of freedom they can provide.

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And that brings us to the end of our tour. Don’t stop there, though. Come and roam around there for yourself; I’d certainly advise you to visit this autumn with the wildly diverse season it’s boasting. Kicking off the autumnal season is the ‘unashamedly vulgar’ sexual comedy Wendy Hoose on 10th and 11th Sept. The romance continues with Shakespeare’s eternal tragedy of forbidden love Romeo and Juliet – the exciting first show by the Sherman’s new artistic director, Rachel O’Riordan and perfect for students who are fed up of over-analysing the text at school.

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If love’s not the sort of thing you need in autumn, comedy could work instead. I’m looking forward to red-headed raconteur Ruby Wax who is bringing her show on mental illness and mutual insanity Sane New World after the release of her acclaimed book.Well, if that’s not your thing, novelist and Mock the Week regular Mark Watson will also be tickling audiences with his latest show Flaws.

As if the Sherman couldn’t get any more varied in their season, they’re also putting on a fusion of martial arts and hip-hop with The Five & The Prophecy of Prana just after a serious slice of contemporary opera in the form of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, composed by Philip Glass. Now that’s what I call diversity.

So, hopefully, this blog has urged you to get on the next train to Cathays and pop in to the Sherman. Please do. Hey, if you do it this week, you might see me there. Hope that doesn’t put you off!
Words and Pictures By Sam Pryce

 

‘In These Stones, Horizons Sing’ – a tour round Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

 

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Ah, the WMC – like a great, big, brown armadillo dormant in Cardiff Bay. That’s my way of looking at it, I suppose. Yet on one of the many tours that the staff organise around the Centre, you are encouraged to look closely at various different aspects of the venue’s striking architecture (courtesy mainly of Jonathan Adams, among others) and reach your own conclusions as to what they mean. For example, the actual shape of the venue is intended to resemble the back of a ship while the two slate constructions either side represent cliffs with the glass acting as the ocean. But I don’t know – I still see an armadillo.

With our cheery guide Sophie, myself and two fascinated older folks were taken in, out, up, down and around nearly every nook and cranny a theatregoer could hope to go. Everything excluding the auditorium itself. Strange, I know, but understandable since the cast of War Horse were busy rehearsing and weren’t keen on a small group of tourists ooh-ing and ahh-ing at every move. Luckily, we gawped from the safety of the Technical Box instead and Sophie’s in-depth and factual tour was not purged of its intrigue in the slightest.

As you could guess, the tour also comprises prying behind-the-scenes into rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms and any other room that may be of interest (sadly not the bathroom). You’ll be swamped with anecdotes and factoids aplenty, – did you know, for superstitious reasons, there is no Dressing Room 13? Spooky!

Facts abound at every corner on this tour. It certainly equips you with an all-round knowledge of any and every aspect of this iconic arts hub. There’s a lot more to that armadillo than one might think. Plus, it’s always nice to spout off some fun facts on your next visit too. Just pre-warn whoever’s sitting next to you.

 

Preview The Homecoming, Rogue’z Theatre by Sam Pryce.

PREVIEW: ROGUE’Z The Homecoming

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Playwright Harold Pinter believed The Homecoming – a prickly insight into a womanless family – was among his best work. It’s certainly one of his darkest, and, potentially, funniest. Therefore, it’s appropriate that the undeniably talented folks at ROGUE’Z Theatre Company have chosen to perform it as part of this year’s Cardiff Comedy Festival. They welcomed me into their apt rehearsal room – a grey-brown, disused church hall with the troubling presence of a Baby Jesus and Mary sculpture. If only Mary could have heard what goes on in this play, she’d be quick to cover her little boy’s ears.

In a North London living room, the relatively successful Teddy returns from America to his dysfunctional, all-male household with his wife. Together, they are berated and humiliated by imposing patriarch Max and his two sons: the suave, sexually aggressive Lenny and the brutish boxer Joey. The audience shall be left, like Max’s mild-mannered brother Sam, sitting very uncomfortably, unsure whether to laugh or cry.

It ran exceptionally smoothly for a rehearsal. However, the company assured me there were some creases I didn’t notice that require ironing out before they open this week at Porter’s (21st and 22nd) and subsequently at Chapter (24th).

Pinter is notorious for hinting at subtexts that are left unexplored. This company’s rehearsal process, however, aimed to delve deeper into each character’s past. Andreas Constantinou, who co-directs and plays pimping son Lenny, tells me, “We wanted to try and reveal the internal lives of the characters. And, in order to achieve that, we used improvisation to explore what these people went through beforehand. Pinter hints at all this but he never elaborates. There are only these words and subtle digs.”

This aspect is particularly evident in the character of Ruth, played as a femme fatale by Nerys Rees. She says, “One of the improvisations we tried was Ruth and Teddy’s time in America and it helped us discover a whole subtext that could translate into performance.”

“But why on earth should I see it?” I hear you (internally) ask. Well, here’s Constantinou’s opinion – “It’s darkly funny while being incredibly insightful. It reveals the uglier sides of human nature beneath the pleasant. And, of course, there’s the rampant, seething sexuality and barbarity.”

What more could you want?

ROGUE’Z production of The Homecoming is at Porter’s Cardiff on 21st and 22nd July and Chapter Arts Centre on 24th July 2014.

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Preview Henna Night, 3 Crate Productions at Chapter Arts Centre

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Henna night is arriving into Chapter arts centre for the 21st and 22nd of July, and promises to be a sizzling theatre experience, full to the brim with black comedy. The production tells the tale of two women who by all accounts should loathe each other – the Broken hearted ex, Judith, and his new girlfriend, Ross, when sarcasm and insults give way to reveal parts of the two characters’ lives, the characters carrying the show in an intimate, character driven play.

Henna Night won The Sunday Times Drama Award in 1999, the aim of the Chapter performance by 3 Crate Theatre is to keep it as fresh and relevant as ever, with the leads easy to find in your everyday life.A whole show sitting on the shoulders of two very different women is a refreshing thing to see in a world where even the strongest of them tend to be props in the stories of men, the archetypes of love interests and women scorned hard to see a break from.

As a new play for Cardiff, and part of its comedy festival, the show carries high hopes , and with a talented cast, crew and director should soar to meet them.

Henna Night part of Cardiff Comedy Festival, Chapter Arts Centre Mon/Tue 21/22nd of July

http://www.chapter.org/ccf-henna-night

 

 

Review Roberto Zucco by August 012, Chapter Arts Centre by Kaitlin Wray

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Production Photograph’s by Jorge Lizalde – studiocano.co.uk

A serial killer expressed in an empathetic way?

You wouldn’t have thought it possible but Bernard- Marie Koltés play ‘Roberto Zucco’ does this justice. Roberto Zucco, the infamous 1980’s Italian serial-killer, murdered his parents, two police officers, women and a child, he was broadcast by the media as the monster he was. Then Koltés play was released. The only way to give justice to this play is to take audacious risks and convincing characterisation and the theatre company, August012’s did this exceptionally well!

It was evident as you stepped into the traverse layout performance space that you needed to leave all expectations of normality behind. The shimmering silver confetti on the floor and the way the actors moved around the audience before the play had even begun, gave an insight to their characters, which consequently brought this play to life instantly !

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The gripping nature of the production in part due to the actors limitless abilities as they effortlessly stepped into different characters. Each character brought a highly entertaining twist that took the audience by storm. Bethan Mai embodied every character she played with such ease and allurement that it grasped the audience completely. John Norton gender swapped, pimp-played, became a fragile old man and other characters you wanted to loathe and love. Nevertheless he delivered the most laughs. John achieved his roles with such conviction that you had to think twice if it was really the same person acting. Joanna Simpkins with her beautiful yet bold characterisations, delivers with such strength that the audience tuned in to every word she said. Last but not least, Adam Redmore took the role of the protagonist Roberto Zucco in his stride. Even though this is the only concrete character in the play, Adam’s performance was outstanding as he delivered passion beneath the psychotic words and the mesmerising gaze which enthralled the audience. The fact we sympathise with his character the most unsettled the audience due to the realisation that he was a serial killer!

One of the other fascinating elements this production offered was the original and talented aspects of the choir. They produced non-diegetic music that supported the fast-paced interchanging scenes. This created an intoxicating energy that engulfed the audience and enhanced the performance. Their voices sung with angelic clarity brought an unnerving oxymoronic presence to any darkness created in the scene !

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However nothing could have prepared the audience for what they themselves brought to the performance. The high level of audience interaction kept us on the edge of our seats throughout. Without spoiling anything it certainly was an experience worth experiencing!

Director Mathilde López knows no boundaries and has once again created a work of art that excites and captivates the audience with black comedy throughout. Grab a ticket and see for yourself what August012’s company has to offer, changing the way we view theatre in Wales.

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Review Roberto Zucco, August O12, Chapter Arts Centre by Hannah Goslin

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Production Photograph by Jorge Lizalde – studiocano.co.uk

In the midst of sparkly confetti and placed in a traverse corridor shaped stage, we were invited into the play of Roberto Zucco; a serial killer known for his murders of his father, mother, a police officer and a child.

From the above brief synopsis, we would expect that the play by Bernard-Marie Koltes would be an emotional impacting play, veering on the disturbed and the almost uncomfortable. And to a point, this is correct. August 012 have taken the play and ventured into this concept, but with a twist. Two hours of something so heavy could turn an audience away, but with the comical factor and the impressive staging concept, not to mention the fantastic acting by all cast members, Roberto Zucco changed into a play with a range of emotions, from fear, to excitement, to hilarity.

The production as a whole reminded me of an alternative universe. There were hints of what we can relate to in modern age in characters and in the scenes, but with occasional glimpses into historical stereotypes, such as the American style 1940’s detective. The use of bright colours in costumes and props such as blood that is spilt in contrast to some more plain and plaid areas added to this concept, reminiscent of the comic book style of film genres such as ‘Sin City.’ This came with inventive ideas which I cant mention here as they may be a spoiler for the production! but rest assured these moments  accompanied by lighting and sound effects were a real highlight of the work. The ‘Little Chicago,’ filled with its lust of prostitution and crime ,vibrant with colour and stereotypical of such places. It felt as if we were in a strange different world, where the norm was not possible.

This take on a real life story however, could make you forget that this is indeed based upon a true serial killer. The actor playing Roberto, Adam Redmore brought this back. For very controlled movement, facial expressions and overall persona, it could only take a very skilled actor to accomplish. With the hectic nature of some characters in their farce take, this cool and collective character almost seemed like the most normal of them all. And of course, the accompanying actors tended to take on several roles, an impressive feat I would say. Not only did they manage to make us forget that they were playing different characters, their physicality and attitude to the different parts was astonishing and well accomplished. Not one character could be said to have outshone as they all showed their very well trained skillset.

The contrast of recorded music as well as an in person choir was a lovely idea and did add something different to the piece. The choir sat on high staging behind the audience around the room, at times taking part as very minor characters. While this was a good addition, as well as the shining talent in the audience with impromptu speaking and movement parts, it felt that more time was taken on the main actors rather than  work on the choir. Eye contact at times that were from their own inquisitive personalities I felt broke some of the atmosphere, with fumbling attempts to get onto the staging drawing attention away at times and ‘character’ breaking when finding some of the action comical themselves. To me personally this at times, spoilt the well-executed action on stage.

REVIEW: August012’s Roberto Zucco – Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

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We all have a morbid fascination with serial killers. How can someone be that fearless and disturbed to commit such an act of forethought malice over and over again? In this 1988 absurdist play from French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltѐs, the notion that a killer is in fact influenced by the hypocrisy and corruption of others is explored via the real life Italian killer Roberto Zucco – infamous for first killing his parents before moving on to police officers, women and a child. Certainly not your usual protagonist, but what is especially unsettling is that you find yourself empathising with his character the most. That’s when a play has really done its job.

Such a provocative, audacious idea must be conveyed in an engaging enough way for its audience to listen and this company doubtlessly flourish. Under Mathilde Lόpez’s always revelatory direction, this production terminates your grasp of sanity from the moment you walk through the door. Much like Tonypandemonium in its impulsive, even primal spontaneity, no scene has a set beginning or end and, despite the traverse staging, the entire space is used. What erupts is an exhilarating if disorienting experience. With all those rapid head movements, it’s a bit like being at Wimbledon.

Yet another inventive aspect of this production comes in the form of a choir whose soaring voices underscore the piece adding fluidity to the act and a somewhat ethereal atmosphere. It gives Zucco’s story the feel of a great operatic tragedy.

The cast are boundless in their abilities. All hang-ups are lost, which is customary if you’re working with Lόpez. With Roberto Zucco being the only concrete character, the more-than-mutable supporting cast must resort to shifting personas in the space of seconds. Bethan Mai foams and fizzes with mischievous allure and emotional instability. Joanna Simpkins, with her arresting glare, delivers the text fiercely with vigour and verve. John Norton transcends gender and nationality to assume progressively ludicrous guises and, as a result, gains a lot of laughs. And, last but not least, Adam Redmore as the eponymous assassin is cleverly the most vulnerable, with a killer’s vacant gaze, blameless in a troupe of flippant coppers, manipulative mothers and incestuous siblings.

Of course, the best performances come from the (un)lucky audience members who, curiously, always oblige to joining in, whether they have lines to say or a chair to give. Lunacy is omnipresent and openly encouraged.

Explosive and uncompromising, Roberto Zucco shocks, excites, tickles and disturbs. The gusto never dips and the mood never dampens. Kill for a ticket. Sit in the front row. Leave your inhibitions at home.

 

PREVIEW: August012’s Roberto Zucco – Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

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Roberto Zucco – natural or nurtured killer? That question, among others, is the sort of thing this production of Bernard-Marie Koltѐs’ final play shall attempt to answer. Not only is it sure to answer this, but I expect it will encourage its audience to pose many questions as well with its boldly original style, courtesy of the expertise of director Mathilde Lόpez. It opens tonight (Wed 9th July) at the Stiwdio venue of Chapter Arts Centre, but the company were generous enough to let me to sit and scribble in the dark while they had their tech rehearsal. And I can tell you: even the rehearsals are as erratic and exhilarating as the production itself.

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Firstly, a word about the play. Written in 1988 by absurdist Bernard-Marie Koltѐs and translated by Martin Crimp, it appears to follow the life and murders of the real life Italian serial killer of the same name, charting his familial and romantic life along the way. Alas, it’s not as factual as you may think. While the storyline is generally accurate, it is the primitive dialogue and ferocious characters that are the most striking.

Director Mathilde Lόpez says, ‘I love the language. It switches so quickly from something almost Shakespearean to an American gangster movie.’

And she’s succeeded in injecting that almost manic conversion from comic hysteria to tenderness through several mediums that you’ll have to see for yourself. A lot of the questions I had prepared were somewhat irrelevant when I saw how the play worked. I realise that it’s not as much about Zucco himself, rather how he’s driven to it.

Discussing it with Lόpez, however, gave me a huge insight into what’s below the surface of Zucco. ‘He is almost like Jesus, in a way,’ she says. ‘The play is a kind of crucifixion. He himself is not an evil character; he is only made to do these things because people want him to. You know, a girl asks him to kidnap her and he does,’ muses Lόpez, intermittently popping a Skittle into her mouth.

She adds, ‘Zucco is also the only character with a name, which is interesting. The others are just called Mother, Sister, Girl, and so on.’

I notice too that Zucco, played expertly with disconcerted shyness by Adam Redmore, seems the most timid of all the characters. It, therefore, is a play about how perhaps we are not born evil but made that way.

The context of it being written in the 80s adds yet another layer for analysis. Since the playwright was a homosexual, the hostility he faced is reflected in his work. ‘Koltѐs wrote this when he was dying of AIDS,’ she continues. ‘So there’s a lot about secretion and filth and the sort of dirty desires of humans, which is how it was seen then. And yet, the actual subject of AIDS isn’t mentioned once.’

Watching Lόpez work is a privilege in itself. She changes seats regularly to ensure everyone has a good seat, occasionally adjusting the positioning of the actors accordingly. Sporadically and without warning, she barks mid-scene instructions or adjustments to actors – ‘Louder’; ‘Too far’; ‘Cry more.’ And the actors obey her every word and carry on, simply because, very often, she’s right. Lόpez, like any artist, is obsessively meticulous in all aspects of the performance – the speed of a crossfade, the tone of a voice, even the direction of a bucket of blood. All chaos is organised. Such carnage requires scrupulous direction.

 

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Every actor seems an artist in their own right too and perhaps that is the reason for Roberto Zucco feeling so dazzlingly volatile. Adam Redmore and his supporting cast (made up of Bethan Mai, Joanna Simpkins and John Norton) are equally brilliant showing no sign of exhaustion from these rehearsals, abandoning all the usual barriers of age, class and gender. They are empty vessels for the quirks of minor characters to fill. I was still unsure of what was to come even after watching scenes replayed over and over again so that a light or a noise was in the right place at the right time. It’s a real feat of the imagination. People, like Zucco, should kill for a ticket to this. (Don’t actually do that.) I know I am dying to see Thursday’s finished product.

 

Roberto Zucco is at Chapter Stiwdio, Cardiff from Wed 9th to Sat 19th July 2014.

 

Sam Pryce

Review Sweeney Todd Everyman Theatre by Young Critic Lois Arcari

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Everyman theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd was just the type of treat Mrs Lovett’s pies were, with their dark ingredients. As the scene was set, drizzle adding to the atmosphere of Victorian gloom, I couldn’t imagine what I was in store for.

David Stephens as Sweeney was magnificent, getting into the obsession and rage of the character with a captivating voice, whilst still playing the dark humour well too, even adding in one or two Jack Sparrow slips as with Depp in the film version; every moment with our principal character on stage a treat.

Other great performances come from Joan Hoctor as Mrs Lovett, balancing all aspects of her character well, with a singing voice that adding her accent without it ever overtaking the songs, which can happen in some performances, providing most of the laughs for the audience, even as the second half of a dark duo. Sondhiem was a genius for making someone who is, on paper loathsome so sympathetic, even with her eviller revelations, and Hoctor showcased that well.

Other characters played notably were Olivia Hopper’s  Joanna, managing to play her descent into madness on top of what would otherwise be a stock romantic character and the beggar woman played by Sarah Chew, both entertaining and disturbing as the more traditional mad woman whose songs drive the action of the second act.

Pirelli was a scene stealer, and when the audience see his fate we can’t wait to see Sweeney’s gruesome plan unfold, and the beadle was a classic pantomime style villain that was fun to see prowl around.

The ensemble cats were also brilliant, their harmony for the Ballad of Sweeney Todd powerful and pitch  perfect, and the costumes were, as the Victorian theme demands, absolutely gorgeous.

The show had very few slip ups, all forgiveable – while the judge’s actor, Clive Riches got under the disgusting skin of the character, his part of  his duet brought the other  half of the performance, from Sweeney himself down a tad, though he was fine when he sang solo.The role of  Anthony’s played by  Joe Wiltshire Smith performed well, but didn’t make me think his character was any more than the traditional romantic, conversely for such a well-worn character type probably the most insane of all the madmen and women of the show.

A final misstep was the bookending of modern characters looking into the story, though perhaps it was meant to symbolise how intriguing the character is despite the age of the setting and folk story, but it really only took the audience’s mind off a world the cast had done so well to establish.

All in all, it was an exciting, atmospheric performance abuzz with energy; eyes glued firmly on the main stars performances, lavishly acted and staged, a brilliant performance of a dazzlingly ominous iconic show.