This was my first visit to the New Wolsey Studio in Ipswich, and it went to the New Wolsey Young Company production of Sweeney Todd. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice, modern and intimate a venue it was, and as it’s the celebration of the New Wolsey Theatre’s 15th Anniversary, their own New Wolsey Young Company decided to take on The New Wolsey’s first ever production.
I have personally been in love with the score and film for some time now, but this was my first stage production I had been able to see, so I was excited to see how it compared.
The tale of Sweeney Todd is of course an iconic one that derives from the Victorian era of “Penny Dreadful” stories. His skin was pale, his eye was odd, and he shaved the faces of gentlemen who were never heard of again…
Benjamin Barker was wrongly deported for a crime he didn’t commit but years later he returns to London as Sweeney Todd, a disguise that the ever resourceful pie-maker Mrs. Lovett soon sees through. When a salesman recognises him and threatens blackmail, Sweeney quickly turns to violence, so he and Mrs. Lovett are left with the difficult question of what to do with the body. With meat costing so much and the business in the pie shop doing badly, there’s only one thing for it!
Stephen Sondheim’s dark and comic musical is a gruesome story of betrayal, love and bloody revenge – all served up in the best pies in London!
As for the show itself, I was genuinely blown away by the high standard of theatre the Youth Company portrayed.
With the cast only being aged between 16-22, I couldn’t believe how talented they were. Every character was portrayed as they should be, and there wasn’t a weak link. I especially feel the urge to commend Oliver Ward as Sweeney Todd, who gave an intense and chilling but spot-on portrayal of Sweeney, same goes to Mae Munuo as Mrs Lovett who captured her craziness with ease, both have great potential to go far. Also to Jack Tricker as Pirelli, as he could definitely give Sasha Baron Cohen (who portrayed the same character in the film version) a run for his money! Though they were all excellent with great potential.
I initially thought they were performing to tracks, but I was surprised but pleased to shortly realise there was 3 young musicians hidden away too, in which both the music and lyrics came across beautifully- and fans of theatre will know the Sondheim musicals can be tricky to master, and even some of the best talents take time to learn it.
As for the set and costumes, despite the small theatre setting, the way they transformed it in to something that could pretty much be transported to the West End and still work, was incredible. The attention to detail was so clear to see.
I genuinely believe they could have been in a bigger theatre, and still impressed and sold to larger audiences. My only fear is that if they had, it would have lost a touch of the brilliance, because I think part of it’s success came from the intimacy of the venue, as it forced you to feel fully involved and invested into the show and characters.
It was dramatic, intense and bloody, but brilliant! Everything you’d expect from this Sondheim classic in the tale of Sweeney Todd came to life thanks to the New Wolsey Young Company.
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The show runs at The New Wolsey Studio in Ipswich until the 23rd of April, though all the shows are now sold out so you’ll have to call 01473 295900 to join the waiting list and hope that they may get returns!
Note: Blood, guts and some adult themes make this production unsuitable for those of faint heart or weak stomach, or under the age of 14.
[shareprints gallery_id=”23675″ gallery_type=”squares” gallery_position=”pos_center” gallery_width=”width_100″ image_size=”medium” image_padding=”5″ theme=”light” image_hover=”false” lightbox_type=”slide” titles=”true” captions=”true” descriptions=”true” comments=”false” sharing=”false”]Images: © Richard Davenport