Sweeney Todd returns to London having been unjustly exiled by the evil Judge Turpin. Now hailing as the Demon Barber, Sweeney swears vengeance against the Judge. Coaxed by the whispered words of the ensemble, Todd forms a sinister partnership with Mrs Lovett. Todd's thirst for blood inspires the addition of a secret ingredient into Lovett’s meat pies that has the people of London lining up for more. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Ethereal Theatre returns to the fringe with an iconic musical where Todd’s bloodthirsty world will come alive in a late-night spectacle.
DIRECTING DANTE INTO SWEENEY TODD
BY CO-FOUNDERS DANA HUDSON AND MARC ZAYAT
When first listening to Sweeney Todd, we were enthralled with the parallels between a hellish, purgatory world often alighted by Sondheim's lyrics and imagery in both the music and book. We chose to explore Dante's Inferno as a world building tool using the Nine Circles of Hell as means to give our world some structure and rules. In Dante's Inferno the Pilgrim (our audience) travels through Hell, witnessing the atrocities inflicted on the souls of the damned. It was easy to identify how these different circles resonate with Sondheim's characters.
Our main vehicle for connecting Dante's Inferno to Sweeney Todd is through our ensemble, or as we have chosen to call them - Reapers. The Reapers are reflective of the various Circles of Hell, offering temptation to Sondheim's characters and coaxing them into committing nefarious acts in order to collect their souls and increase the numbers of the damned. They are responsible for creating the nightmarish vision of 'London' the audience see, incapable of remaining in the presence of 'purer' characters for long. The Reapers re resolved in their duty to reap these souls and drag them down to their basest level.
Dramaturgically we have not altered the original musical. As a company we strive to insert our concepts onto already well known texts. Through an in-depth analysis, the signs and images of Dante's Inferno ere already present in the musical. As creatives, our job is to insert a magnifying glass onto the test, allowing the audience to see the musical they know and love through a different lens.