Director Marcus Churchill
Performed at Tolleshunt Knights Village Hall

22nd May 2010

Over 30 young people were on stage for this very different version of “Sweeney Todd” and one which I had never seen before.
The opening chorus on Fleet Street had mainly chorus members who were trying to convey the shock,horror story line which was about to unfold and really get the show off to a flying start.It needed far more punch to attain this effect.
Shawn Cornish as Sweeney Todd looked every bit the scary person we expected to see with very wild black/red hair, and a rather sombre expression.
Shawn did well but as with many of the performers seemed rather unwilling to come to the front of the stage.
His sung numbers with Mrs Lovett(the pie lady) who also had extremely wild red hair could have been much louder and sung out to the audience more rather than both of them walking about through the songs so the projection did not come over as well as it could.
Rachel Shortland as Mrs Lovett has the making of a real comic actress and I hope she will continue to develop with more character parts in future shows.
All the cast spoke very quickly so therefore a great deal of the dialogue was lost care must be taken to overcome this.
Hannah Willingale as Beaujolais Pickle was great in this role and also made the most of being one of the mad people in the “Madhouse at Peckham”scene. Hannah has a lot of talent and more of the cast needed to follow her example in the energy and commitment given to the show.
I liked Peter Greenwood as Angelo, and Jack Vanson and Brad Cole as the sailors Billy & Tommy had very good projection and owned the stage when they came on. Jodie Cole as Foogle also has promise, just a little more confidence needed and she will gain this with further shows.
Katy Hood as Tobias spoke so quietly, but again has great promise and will gain confidence with more productions.
Several of the sung chorus numbers were good and funny, but the scene with the ghosts really did not work at all.It might have been better not to have sung solo lines and let the ghosts all sing together to give more volume.
I look forward to your next production and well done to Marcus and the team for starting a group which will go on getting better with every production.
Just remember to smile when you are on stage.It is amazing how much difference it makes to an audience to see happy faces and lifts the performance immensely.

Ann Platten


Group Knights Youth Drama Society
Venue Tolleshunt Knights Village Hall
Date of Adjudication Saturday 22nd May 2010
Production The Sweeney Todd Shock ‘n Roll Show By Peter Miller and Randall Lewton
Director Marcus Churchill
Adjudicated by Jane Rayner
Accompanied by Anne Sexton


It is always interesting to visit a new group, and this was a really new group, only formed last year. This was a bold production to tackle, with songs, period costumes and special effects, but well done to all of the cast and crew and good luck in the future.

Front of House.
Pleasant, welcoming and friendly, with seats reserved for us.
The programme was artistically designed, well printed and informative.

The hall has a very large stage, which was used to good effect. The set was simple but effective, using two open doorframes to signify Mrs Lovett’s shop and the barber’s premises. The lurid stripes were certainly eye-catching! The chair needed to be set more towards the wings, then Todd’s unfortunate customers could have possibly been tipped onto a crash mat, maintaining the illusion, rather than nipping off in full view of the audience. The pub scene was well painted. The flats on wheels were an ingenious idea and having the space to store them in the wings, would be the envy of many a local group!
The pie making machine was too flimsy – a good design but obviously cardboard.

The pies were good but some of the other props looked too modern for a Victorian setting. I loved the limbs that were lobbed into the pie machine – very gruesome.

These were generally good. Sweeney Todd looked magnificent, in black with an amazing bouffant hairstyle and Mrs Lovett also looked the part, from her big red hair to her big, clumpy boots.
Queen Victoria looked regal but the dress wasn’t really from the right era and black would have been better. Napoleon was wonderfully eccentric. Katie the dog handler would have looked better in black leggings rather than shorts and someone should have taken the label off the dog!
It’s always difficult to cope with modern hairstyles in any period piece but mobcaps are really useful for covering up, and somehow a hat of any kind, finishes an outfit. There were some small, irritating faults. Red nail varnish – take it off! Sleeves hanging over and completely covering hands. Inappropriate footwear. These didn’t spoil the production but they did stand out.

There were some good songs in this play, but many of them seemed to be in too high a key. Could they not have been transposed to make them easier to sing?
The musical accompaniment was good, taken to another dimension when Marcus played guitar for one number.

Lighting and Sound.
A simple lighting plot, all changes on cue. Some good sound effects well used particularly the seaside sounds. However, while we could see microphones on some of the cast, we did wonder if they were switched on or maybe the sound balance was wrong, because they still could not be heard very well. This was a shame as some of the cast had very good singing voices.

Pickpocket. Amy Hawkes
What a good screamer Amy is! She got the play off to an amusing start but some of her lines were a little indistinct.

Tobias. Katy Hood
Katy was burdened with some quite long speeches, which maybe needed more expression. Her performance was confident and her singing was lovely. With more experience I’m sure she will learn to feel the words and not just say them.

Alonzo. Daniel Carr
A magician who came to a gruesome end. Tall and commanding, Daniel had a fine singing voice, good timing and strangely was more confident when he returned as a ghost.

Foozle. Jodie Cole
An engaging, perky performance from Jodie, with good facial expression. She gave us a character that we liked and cared about, and added pace to the production.

Billy. Jack Vanson
An appealing character, a bit of a dreamer. Jack interacted well with fellow sailor Tommy, spoke clearly and showed confidence.

Tommy. Brad Cole
Lively, with a cheeky expressive face.
The hornpipe dance that he and Billy did was performed with skill and enthusiasm, wielding their mops with gusto. (Reminded me of a very old Morecombe and Wise routine with Cliff Richard and a mop!)

Orlando the dog. Katie Wollington
Not an easy job for Katie but she managed to make herself “invisible” so we could concentrate on the dog’s antics.

Sweeny Todd. Shawn Cornish
This was a very confident portrayal from Shawn. His diction was always clear but sometimes we felt that he wasn’t evil enough. If he could have kept the strength of feeling he showed when he was very angry, his performance would have been even better. He looked every inch the demon barber. Excellent costume and make up.

Angelo. Peter Greenwood
An appealing lad with a cheeky grin, Peter kept his broken English accent throughout. He showed a range of emotions and had a good singing voice.

Mrs Lovett. Rachel Shortland
Rachel was evil and nasty! She showed us all sides of her devious, cunning character in a very mature performance. I loved her evil, purring voice and she looked wonderful. When she drank from a bottle, it looked as if she really was drinking – not easy to do.

Constable. Daniel Hugh
Daniel had some authority in this role but needed more volume and should have buttoned up his jacket.

Beaujolais Pickle. Hannah Willingale
Hannah gave us a wonderful pub landlady, managing to be slightly slovenly and tipsy with a mixture of charming smiles to her customers and anger towards poor Grovel. A very assured performance. She and Sophie were a great double act, both in the pub and in the madhouse. They lit up each scene they were in.

Grovel. Sophie Morton
Aptly named and beautifully acted, Sophie managed to both pathetic and put upon and very funny. She and Hannah had thought up so much business in their madhouse scene, they dominated the stage. Wonderful comedy acting from them both.

Napoleon Bedlam. Matthew Russell
Immediately in character, Matthew was greedy, unpleasant and totally bonkers. My only criticism was he hid his hands in his long dangling sleeves.

The Dwarf Squad.
A brief appearance but well executed and very funny. We liked their mad chase around the hall.Well done.

Queen Victoria. Bethany Mayne
Suitably haughty, Bethany maintained her accent well. Perhaps a little understated.

HRH Attendant. Cheyenne Coleman
Kept a good upright, military stance, guarding the Queen.

Unfortunately, the ghosts could not be heard, even from three rows back, and most of their solo lines were inaudible. The costumes were an interesting variation on the usual white sheets but it would have been better had they all worn the same clothes underneath. They stood very still. Perhaps gentle arm movements, reaching out, would have made them more spooky and scary.

The Chorus.
Jordan Murphy, Leon Kennedy, Lucy Greed, Phoebe Jowett,
Kieran Shuttlewood, Amy Willis, Erica Cridland
The cast all took on several roles and worked really hard creating their characters. Well done to all of them.
Sometimes there was insufficient volume and some of the songs needed more movement to emphasize the words being sung. With more experience and the confidence that goes with it, I’m sure they will learn to really sell a song to the audience.

This was Marcus’ first solo direction and there was much to praise – some excellent performances and nice touches of humour -but I’m sure too that he has learned a lot from this experience that will help in his next production. The chorus need better positioning. There were too many straight lines, cast looking at the floor, not always enough volume and sometimes a lack of pace. Some times a positive stillness is more effective when singing, rather than constantly pacing from one side of the stage to the other.

The lack of pace and volume spoilt some of the afternoon’s entertainment but there were some excellent performances from this obviously enthusiastic group of young people, who as they gain more confidence, will have a great future. The matinee audience loved the show and applauded wildly!
We’re sure the cast have all learned a lot from taking part in this production and we wish them well.

Jane Rayner and Anne Sexton

First printed in The Tribune

Knights Youth Drama Society (KYDS) has just finished its run of ‘The Sweeney Todd Shock ‘n’ Roll Show’ by Peter Miller and Randall Lewton.

This was a very ambitious show for youngsters to perform and I was not expecting anything too clever. How wrong I was! Taking into account that all the cast are still at school and no doubt studying for exams, they put on a show that was extremely well performed.

We were made most welcome as we enetered the hall and were able to tkae our pick of seats. The large audience hushed as the lights went down and then we were off on a journey of blood and gore, pathos and humour.

There were quite a few songs in the show, some of which were quite difficult to sing. Obviously singing is not one of KYDS’ strong points. They will need to work on that one! When the songs were performed by the whole cast they were excellent; it was just when there were only one or two singers involved that the volume and confidence seemed to drift away.

The standard of acting among the youngsters was very good on the whole, although again, there were times when the volume of the voices was far too low. But their attention to the script and to the acting was excellent.

The story was told in a very competent way and the effects were first class.

All in all it was a very good show, but work needs to be done on getting those sound levels up. The person at the back of the hall needs to hear every word. 

Well done KYDS, and I look forward to your next production.

Ray Banks