Snapshots Theatre Collective has served up a bloody treat just in time for Halloween. Their site-specific, immersive production of Sweeney Todd, mounted at 348 Water Street (Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop, I should say), submerges the audience in the dark world of Fleet Street so thoroughly that they will even serve you pre-show pie.
As is anticipated in a site-specific performance, and even more in an immersive one, the physical space is the production’s crux. And Snapshots’ Creative Team makes great use of theirs. The acoustics of the space give Sondheim’s intense score a visceral quality, allowing it to creep into the audience’s bones as it keeps them on their toes. This works beautifully for the majority of the show, especially when the space is made to ring with the talented ensemble’s full discordant force. Wendy Bross Stuart’s small orchestra is perfectly balanced for the space, offering clarity and precision (and creepy mood) throughout. A large central table/stage provides seating and performance space, with the majority of the seating split between benches lining the walls, and a set of back stalls. The cast surrounds and weaves through the audience, producing an affect that is often effectively claustrophobic, but sometimes feels less-intentionally crowded. The risk of an immersive project with multiple seating configurations is offering consistent visibility for the diversely placed audience, and Director Chris Adams’ staging is clever in its attempts to overcome this probability. The benefits of this truly neat venue also limit the production in ways a more traditional staging would not: the limited space can lend the staging a repetitive feeling, and the simplicity of set design, which assisted in clarity, at times led some conventions (like Sweeney’s notorious chair) to fall by the wayside.
A wickedly talented cast, however, buoys through any confusion of spatial use. Colleen Winton is a Mrs. Lovett for the ages—delightful and wry, and Damon Calderwood approaches Beadle Bamford with a timing and wit that the role does not usually receive, to great affect. Jonathan Winsby’s performance as Pirelli is one of hilarious and detailed characterization. With their comedic touches, these roles are made the more effective in the balance they offer to the eye of the storm around which Sweeney circulates—Warren Kimmel’s titular Todd—who is played with a physical gravity that eerily offsets his mental imbalance. Emily Fraser’s costume design is just wonderful—detailed and simple with just the right touches to ground you in Sweeney’s era and discomfiting aura.
Sweeney Todd benefits greatly from an immersive presentation, and Snapshots does a job that should not be missed by theatre lovers and Halloween-thrill seekers alike. Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd; really, you should.
Sweeney Todd runs through Oct.31st at Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop, 348 Water Street. Tickets and more info can be found at SweeneyToddtheMusical.ca