Monday, 1 March 2010

'Sweeney Todd' at the Rose & Crown

This blog doesn't normally do reviews but I'll make an exception for the current show at The Rose & Crown on Hoe Street. I've been vaguely aware for some time that a theatre group had nested in the pub but when I tried to get a ticket for their last show it was sold out. Having now been to their new production I can see why.

I'm not a big fan of musicals and from what little I'd heard of Sweeney Todd it didn't sound like my cup of tea, not even when it's made into a film starring Johnny Depp. But I decided to go and check it out. And I'm very pleased I did. Walthamstow's very own Sweeney Todd is stunningly good. The venue is a studio theatre upstairs at The Rose and Crown. The theatre atmosphere is European avant-garde and, importantly, you are allowed to take your drink in (and none of this plastic-glasses-only nonsense, either). If you are a real ale fan, this is the pub for you, and any pub that sells Adnams is a pub for me.

This is not an amateur production. The standard of performance is every bit as good as you'd see in the West End, but at a fraction of the price. The cast seems to be made up of young professionals at the start of their careers, and they are electrifyingly good. The actress playing Mrs Lovett steals the show, but then it's one of those plum parts, like Richard III. The choreography is brilliant. 'Sweeney Todd' is strictly a black humour musical, and very funny it is too. This is not a gruesome production with squirting blood but more of a stylized one. But the female chorus, with their greenish hued faces, look like a line-up of young vampires, and very spooky they are too.

Go see. Performance details here. There are bus stops very close, or it's a short walk from Walthamstow Central. The Rose & Crown is a big old Victorian pub and always seems to be full when I pass by, so naturally the Council has pulled out all the stops and supplied it with, er, one cycle stand.

The first thing I did after seeing Sweeney Todd was try and book tickets for the next production, an evening of Sondheim songs. But it was sold out. Damn. These people are good.