Review: Welsh National Opera’s Sweeney Todd in Bristol

PUBLISHED: 09:05 23 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:05 23 October 2015

Sweeney Todd (|Credit: Manuel Harlan).

Sweeney Todd (|Credit: Manuel Harlan).

Manuel Harlan

THE perfect mixture of blood, gore and laugh-out-loud moments were on display at the opening night of Sweeney Todd at Bristol’s Hippodrome last night and reporter Briana Millett went along...

It is not often you walk into a fully lit theatre with an entire chorus already on the stage – but that is what greeted me at the Welsh National Opera’s performance yesterday (Thursday).

And, in true opera fashion, the chorus was fantastic (even before the lights even went down) engaging the audience from the moment they walked into the theatre to the moment they left.

The show is based on the fictional character of Sweeney Todd, a murderous barber who was made famous during the Victorian era. But James Brining’s production is set in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The stage was filled with large shipping containers which mimicked houses on the streets of London, but it quickly transformed into Mrs Lovett’s unsavoury pie shop at the drop of a hat.

My favourite part of the set was the evolution of Sweeney’s barber shop, from a dark dingy room to a more polished and menacing business.

The barber shop’s chair transformed from a hard wooden piece of furniture to a glamorous red leather chair. The barber’s chair was not only an eye-catching piece of scenery but it was, of course, the setting of Sweeney’s gruesome murders – with a comic trap door built-in to stash the bodies…

David Arnsperger played Sweeney fantastically, making his murderous ways forgivable for the audience and his performance could not be faulted. For me though, the shining star of the production was Janis Kelly, as Mrs Lovett.

She brought more thank a sprinkling of humour to the show, consistently getting the biggest laughs of the night.

To say the singing was spectacular would not do it justice – the first time the chorus all sang together was magical. The large orchestra – which has seen a number of rows in the theatre’s stalls removed to fit it in – was conducted by James Holmes, who caught my eye a number of times as he enthusiastically made the music happen, singing along to every word.

My only criticism of the show would be that it is rather long, with a 95-minute stint before the first interval. The brilliance of the show far outweighs the prospect of fidgety legs, though.

Sweeney Todd will be performed by the Welsh National Opera at the Hippodrome in Bristol today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) at 7.15pm.

Tickets, priced £11.50-45.90, are available from the box office on 08448 713012 or online at

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