A Very Hot Pie Indeed!

Stuart Pendred as Sweeney Todd  - photo: Jamie Scott
Vivo D'Arte never cease to amaze me with their brilliant productions, but this immersive, promenade production of Sweeney Todd, at Frogmore Paper Mill in Apsley, has really raised the bar. The story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street who slits the throats of his customers to fill the pies sold in Mrs Lovett's shop was brought to life in an incredibly atmospheric setting. Admittedly, it was rather cold, but it all added to the ambience, and we did get excellent hot pies to warm our hands in the interval - I think mine was "poet"!
Lucy Peacock as Mrs Lovett    photo - Jamie Scott
I love Sondheim's Sweeney, and everyone tries to bring it to life in their own special way.  But for Vivo D'Arte to have taken over Frogmore Paper Mill and built sets into that crumbling, dusty, industrial warehouse, slotted the band into a gap in an old wall and piped music though to all the performance areas, built balconies and rails, hung TV screens so the actors could see the vibrant MD Erika Gundesen doing her stuff, and created a world for the audience to be lead through and amazed - I really have to applaud everyone involved. Jeff Stewart pulled off a remarkable feat for his directorial debut. Absolutely incredible!

Anna Sideris as Joanna   Photo - Jamie Scott
James Penniston as Anthony  photo - Jamie Scott
It was so exciting to feel you were in the middle of the action of a Sweeney street scene, nudged and chatted to by hawkers, prostitutes and members of the asylum.  As the show opened a coffin was laid at my feet and Stuart Pendred rose up before me- a powerful, formidable, tortured Sweeney, his pain was palpable throughout as he led us on his horrific journey. Lucy Peacock, his hilarious Mrs Lovett had the audience in the palm of her hand from the moment she started whacking her rolling pin down on the pastry, and we utterly believed how much she loved Sweeney, in her strange twisted way. In complete contrast Anna Sideris gave us a pure and tender Joanna, I was completely captivated by this young actress and her lovelorn Antony, flawlessly played by James Penniston, they swept me away with their youthful passion and glorious voices.
Other standout performances were Alfie Glasser, who tore my heart out as little Toby, Christine Byrne as the fierce and agonising Beggar Woman, Andrew McGowan as the stupendous Pirelli, Luca Hlaing as the Beadle, Stephen Davis as Judge Turpin, Freddie Clarke as Jonas Fogg and little Melissa Stewart's exceptional performance as the young Joanna.

We were led around by members of the fabulous ensemble, a giddy audience revelling in this dark and passionate story. Vivo D'Arte pulled off a truly innovative and thrilling production of Sweeney Todd and everyone who saw it will be talking about it for years to come.

To find out more about the wondrous Vivo D'Arte please contact them through their website Here

Frogmore Paper Mill, Apsley, Hertfordshire


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