Some have said that Michael Ball is odd casting for Sweeney, but I disagree. Sweeney is ultimately a good man wronged, not a pre-meditating killer. The journey to vengeance is all too human and as the story unfolded I felt that the piece was an allegory - a tale of man devouring man - played out on stage - a terrible warning of the dangers of greed and corruption - the insatiable lust of the Judge becoming the seed of destruction for all. The good man wronged leads to loss of faith and vengeance - which ultimately leads to annihilation. The only light - the love of Anthony and Joanna, escaping from the darkness.
The orchestrations had a chamber feel - and it seemed to me that highly dramatic moments were purposely underplayed. The production thrived on its creation of the sense of the ordinary - "is that Sweeney there beside you?" and at times it felt like we were treading on eggshells, partly in a kind of emotional reverence to Sondheim's work and partlyto create this sense of "reality". It did not feel like a melodrama. A sense of darkness pervaded the evening. The light was struggling to get through (and at times the actor's faces perhaps were underlit - but maybe that was the point...)
The acting was excellent. Immelda Staunton's dark, comic take on Mrs. Lovett hid a deep longing for Sweeney Todd and Michael Ball's quietly brooding Sweeney sat well with that. Peter Polycarpou's deftly pinickety Beadle had danger, violence and a beaurocratic poise that veered between civil servant and music hall act. John Bowe's Judge Turpin executed the self flagellation scene with disturbing precision. Luke Brady as Anthony and Lucy May Barker's Joanna offered a sense of redemption througout - the "kiss me" song on the sofa being delivered with such articulation I heard every word (for the first time ever I think) and felt every nuance of attraction.
Jonathan Kent's production is atmospheric, dark, clear, beautiful and tragic.
And then, a late night tribute to Randy Newman - hosted by Peter Polycarpou - the Sweeney cast performing together and a special appearance from Beverly Klein and Hannah Waddingham to name a few. Absolutely brilliant!