Darkness, wit and humour were above LPAC on the evening of May 31, as Lincoln School of Performing Arts brought on stage a rather new style production (for the fans of the genre) of Sweeney Todd’s story.
The Sweeney Todd played at LPAC is an earlier theatrical version that few people know about, adapted by George Dibdin Pitt from the prose serial “The String of Pearls”, first staged in 1847. The experimental production is meant to test the performance possibilities of the original acting version of the Sweeney Todd play, as edited by Montagu Slater in 1928.
As a barber, Sweeney Todd is quite happy to give his customers a shave, and if they have enough money or jewels on them, he is quite happy to ‘polish them off’ too.
LPAC’s Sweeney Todd has no drive for revenge that motivates him to kill, as one might have thought. In Dibdin Pitt’s version, Sweeney is portrayed as a man consumed by greed, and his lust for murder goes hand in hand with that.
This version is written and designed to be a melodrama, probably one of the first true crime plays of the period. It is performed in the style for which it was written, and is intended to give the audience a glimpse at a form of theatre from a bygone era, telling the story of Sweeney Todd as audiences witnessed it over a hundred and fifty years ago.
The acting was great overall, all under the direction of Darren Furniss. Michael James Day (as Sweeney Todd) expressed each emotion with energy and tact and many of the roles followed his example, with a special mention to Rosemary Osmond (as Tobias).
The lights matched the dark theme of the play, with bright occasional spotlights and general yellow, green and red mists, portraying the atmosphere of last century’s London.
The sound, by Mike Hurley, introduced the spectators to the play in a crescendo, while during the play, though rare, the effects added to the already spooky atmosphere.
The set was minimal, with a few chairs and tables and the occasional technical glitch, but also added to the minimal and experimental mood of the play.
The costumes weren’t outstanding, but they fitted each character’s role, adding to the whole mood.
The make-up, though not very visible overall, enhanced the facial gestures of characters like Sweeney Todd, Mrs. Ragg (Laura Hickerton) and Lupin, (Liam Gregory).
The Sweeney Todd version played at LPAC is dark and funny at the same time, with a high entertaining factor.
Even though the play could have been shortened or have an interval (total running time 1h40min), the producers, Kelly Jones and Michael Earley, did a very good job at staging and managing this play, together with director Darren Furniss and the cast.