Sweeney Todd – reviews of 'thrilling' pie-shop revival

Sondheim's grimly comic musical staged in London's oldest pie shop is 'brilliantly atmospheric'

Sweeney Todd
(Image credit: Bronwen Sharp)

What you need to know

A revival of Sweeney Todd has opened at Harrington's Pie and Mash Shop, Tooting Broadway. The Tooting Arts Club have adapted Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's 1979 musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, for Harrington's 106 year old pie and mash shop (London's oldest).

Bill Buckhurst directs the ghoulishly comic tale of a serial killer who murders people in his barber shop then sends their bodies to Mrs Lovett to be baked into pies. Anton's barber shop across the street from Harrington's functions as the theatre bar during the production. Runs until 29 November.

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What the critics like

This chilling, exhilarating revival of the classic Sondheim musical is "extraordinary" and in this 32 seat venue it feels thrillingly intimate, says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. Bill Buckhurst's crisp and pacey production is genuinely scary, proving that this operatic tale doesn't have to be done on a grand scale.

"This clever pie-shop staging of Sondheim's musical walks the tightrope between grisly and comic" in its tiny chamber musical of horrors, says Lynn Barber in The Guardian. Buckhurst's brilliantly atmospheric production is like a luscious, overfilled meat pie - all meat and no gristle.

Buckhurst and a spellbinding cast of just eight players give "a thrilling dramatic and musical account" of Sondheim's masterpiece, says Mark Shenton on The Stage. This Sweeney Todd brings the audience right into the action – it's never felt more authentic.

What they don't like

"The pie shop capacity is limited, its benches are narrow and hard, and the action takes place in a very confined space," says Jane Martin on What's On Stage. But the old working pie shop is the perfect stage setting for this robust and inspiring production – just take a cushion to sit on, and maybe try the jellied eels instead of the pies.

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