Walsall Operatic Society's Sweeney Todd, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton - review with pictures

By Charlotte Callear | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

The fluid switch from anger and gore to heartbreak and comedy which makes Sweeney Todd a classic can be difficult to master.

Neo Hughes, Steph Coleman and Richard Poynton along with the rest of the cast

But Walsall Operatic Society had the audience going from tickled to unnerved in a heartbeat during the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre show.

With a few recognisable notes from a live orchestra and a train whistle signalling the start, the crowd hushed and the curtain pulled up to reveal the bleak streets of Victorian London in a detailed and convincing stage set.

From the set to the acting and singing, there was little that gave away this was an am dram group rather than a professional theatre group, except for a slight slip of a runaway hat and a small prop that fell. But the forgiving audience simply laughed it off.

Neo Hughes, Richard Poynton and Steph Coleman

The singing was tremendous and the acting truly captivating; particularly Mrs Lovett, played by Steph Coleman, who rightly earned the loudest cheer at the end. Her slight remarks, morbid or delusional as they may have been, animated the audience as they chuckled at her.

Mrs Lovett's sinister up-beat persona contrasted perfectly with Richard Poynton’s part of the morose Sweeney Todd to give the very essence of black comedy as a pair. This is Richard's second time in the role.

The brightly and tightly dressed Adolfo Pirelli, played by Craig Smith, tickled and shocked as he switched from barber extraordinaire to cockney conman.


Richard Poynton as Sweeney Todd

Katy Ball as Beggar Woman was convincingly insane and the audience remained deadly silent and captivated to listen to her nonsensical gibberish.

In fact, it was hard to fault any of them.

The main parts were complimented by an eerie ensemble who left me with goosebumps when they whispered or harmoniously sang.


Richard Poynton and Steph Coleman

None of them switched off from their characters.

In parts, the lighting was out of time as a spotlight would not turn on in time for the music and dialogue, or it was not switched off quick enough for the actor or actress to walk off stage without breaking the illusion.

It was the first year the Walsall Operatic Society performed at the Grand since they were forced to move on from the Lichfield Garrick due to hiked prices. And bigger truly meant better for the group who filled the large boots as well as they did their pies - and director, Tim Jones, should feel proud.

The full cast

I will not be tucking into a pie in the near future but I will be indulging in more of am dram theatre, thanks to the likes of this group.

Charlotte Callear

By Charlotte Callear

Reporter based at the Express & Star's Wolverhampton head office


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