The Demon Barber comes to Tooting for an intimate, quirky and often terrifying show, Sweeney Todd leaves audiences wanting another helping.
It doesn’t take long to realise that Tooting Arts Club’s production of Sweeney Todd is no ordinary dramatic experience.
Take the ‘theatre’ itself, a 106-year-old working pie shop complete with crumbling walls, sticky floors and a painted menu board advertising bowls of jellied eels.
Tooting lacks a permanent professional theatre, but with site-specific locations like Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop happy to step up to the plate, this absence seems more like a blessing.
Indeed, the Selkirk Road eatery is so appropriate a setting that it is nearly impossible to pick out the play’s props amid the shop’s old-school décor and clutter.
Audiences sit at narrow tables and wooden benches (bring a cushion!), and are helped to a plateful of the shop’s famous pie’n’mash before the show.
Drinks are available at another perfect building commandeered by the production, Anton’s Barber Shop, across the road.
Despite the cramped, claustrophobic setting, the talented cast work wonders in the sliver of space available to them around the shop counter.
Jeremy Secomb is a brooding, genuinely terrifying Sweeney Todd, who flips from dry humour to explosive fury with startling speed.
His partner in crime Mrs Lovett is played by Olivier Award-nominated Siobhán McCarthy, who is a delight as she combines faultless comedic timing with just the right amount of lunacy.
The supporting cast vary in terms of theatrical experience, but they all put in strong performances, especially Grace Chapman in her professional debut as Johanna Barker.
The musical crew also deserve credit – not just for their moody accompaniment, but for managing to squeeze three people along with a clarinet, a violin and a piano, onto an already crowded stage.
This production of Sweeney Todd confirms Tooting Arts Club’s status as a leading force in site-specific theatre.
While a lack of a professional drama space in Tooting is something that should be rectified, theatre is nonetheless alive and well in the borough thanks to the group’s creativity and ambition.
The play is terrifying, funny and tragic, and also contains a few surprises (my heart rate is only just returning to normal) – but as the line goes: what happens then – well that’s the play, and he wouldn’t want us to give it away.
Pictures courtesy of Bronwen Sharp, with thanks