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Sweeney Todd to be staged in London’s oldest pie and mash shop

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

TOOTING Arts Club is presenting Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in London’s oldest pie and mash shop – Harrington’s in Tooting – from October 21 to November 29, 2014.

In this staging of Sondheim’s musical thriller, audiences will congregate at Anton’s barber shop before being shown through to Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop, where the décor, little changed since it was opened in 1908, will provide the setting for Mrs Lovett’s infamous establishment.

Sweeney Todd will be directed by Bill Buckhurst, who recently co-directed Globe to Globe‘s touring production of Hamlet alongside Dominic Dromgoole. This is the fourth production Buckhurst has directed for Tooting Arts Club, following the Offie award-winning Barbarians in 2012 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer. His other directing credits include The Vegemite Tales in the West End and numerous touring productions for Shakespeare’s Globe.

Speaking about the production, Buckhurst said: “This will be Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd stripped-back and up-close with a cast of eight, a band of three and a uniquely atmospheric space – the perfect setting for this thrilling tale of love, betrayal, lust and murder. The intimate pie-shop location will make this a truly immersive experience for our audiences, allowing them to enjoy Sondheim’s extraordinary score, stunning lyrics and terrifying story in a completely new and unexpected way.”

Based on a Victorian horror story, Sweeney Todd is Sondheim’s most famous musical. The original 1979 production won a host of awards including both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for music, book and the two lead actors. A new production, starring David Bedella and Sarah Ingram, will shortly open Twickenham Theatre in West London.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd has musical direction by Ben Cox, composer and musical director for acclaimed cabaret theatre troupe The Ruby Dolls. Casting has yet to be announced.

Tooting Arts Club was established in 2010 to stage high quality professional productions in an area that lacks a permanent home for theatre. The company takes inspiration from the area, using local buildings to stage performances that draw audiences from across London, including critically acclaimed productions of Lucy Kirkwood’s Tinderbox, Barrie Keefe’s Barbarians (which was staged in a former Youth Enterprise Centre) and an outdoor A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sweeney Todd will be Tooting Arts Club’s fifth production.

Rachel Edwards, Producer, Tooting Arts Club said: “It has been a long-held dream to do Sweeney Todd at this venue, and I am so pleased that it has been made possible by the generosity of the owners of Harrington’s. The shop is steeped in history and character – and as a producer of site-specific theatre, I instinctively knew this was the ideal venue for Sweeney; it was a great relief that Harrington’s thought so too.

“This project sums up exactly what TAC is about – creating inventive work that is born out of exciting collaborations with people at the heart of the Tooting community. It will be – and already is – a remarkable adventure.”

David Sydney Johnson, who has been working at Harrington’s for 46 years and is currently the sole pie maker, says: “Harrington’s has been serving pies to the people of Tooting for over a hundred years, but this is the first time we’ve ever staged a theatre show. We’re really looking forward to being a pie shop by day and a theatre venue by night and excited to welcome customers old and new to enjoy the show (and of course our pies).”

Sweeney Todd is suitable for ages 14+.

Tickets: £20 (£16 – £13 previews, £5 dress rehearsal). To book, call 03336663366 or visit www.tootingartsclub.co.uk/sweeneytickets.

Time: 7.30pm.

Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval).

Harringtons Pie and Mash shop, 3 Selkirk Road, London, SW17 0ER