After five months of preparations and rehearsals, involving over 100 students, the stage was finally set for The Blue Coat School’s production of Hugh Wheeler’s classic, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Over four consecutive nights, audiences were transported to the dark and shadowy underworld of Victorian London, to witness the return of revenge obsessed Sweeney Todd.
The drama was skilfully exemplified by Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett, played by Year 13 and Year 11 students Matthew and Natalia, who galvanised the whole cast into a totally professional performance. Their acting was supported by our fine musicians, conducted entirely by Year 13 student Dean, and coordinated by Miss Horton.
We must thank our Director of Music, Mr Emery, supported by our Head of English, Mr Kershaw, for directing and producing the show and accepting nothing less than the highest standards in all aspects of the production. Thanks must also go to Miss Aldred for her tremendous effort in the costume department.
A host of other students gave unseen commendable help in stage management, lighting, sound, costume and make up. Administration was organised by our laudable office and estates staff, and hospitality each night was provided by the Parents’ Association.
This year we are particularly grateful to the Marjorie Green Charitable Trust and the Miss Wethered Charitable Trust for making generous donations to support this year’s School Show. We are also grateful to Morecrofts Solicitors for sponsoring this show as well as an anonymous supporter for their generosity.
Blue Coat Theatre Critic, Mr Keith Caulkin MBE
Five minutes with Sweeney Todd
As our magnificent Sweeney Todd prepares to leave The Blue Coat School, we caught up with Matthew to find out what it was like to take to Shirley Hall stage for the very first time.
What was it like to perform in your first ever Blue Coat production as the lead character?
It was an absolutely incredible experience because I’d never been a part of any show that was on this scale before (in that I have in the past been a part of stage productions outside of school, but those shows have always been much smaller productions). Needless to say I was shocked when they announced the results of the auditions. I remember very vividly feeling disappointed when the role I applied for was given to my friend Morgan, and then feeling a mixture of surprise, shock and happiness at hearing that I’d been given the lead. I made sure to thank Mr Emery personally in my closing speech on the final night of the show for providing me with this opportunity.
Being the lead role in any production comes with an enormous amount of responsibility, and that did weigh heavily on me throughout the course of the production. The whole show revolves around your character, you have the most lines and songs to learn, but it’s what needs to be done if you want the show to be a success. And because it was my first show, I felt even more so, the need to try my hardest and perform at my best.
Did you have any special techniques for learning your lines?
Not really. For me, learning lines is just reading the script over and over again, ingraining the words into my memory to a point where it becomes second nature. It’s how I’ve always learnt my lines.
What was the most challenging aspect of your role?
The most challenging aspect for me personally was learning the songs, especially for numbers I wasn’t already familiar with. The truth is I can’t read sheet music, and because Sondheim’s style of composing can be so erratic with note pacing and note changes it was a challenge to learn and then memorise how songs went.
What did you enjoy most about the production?
That’s like asking a parent to choose their favourite child, the entire process was such an immensely enjoyable experience. However, if I had to choose one, it’d probably be the bond of friendship and camaraderie that has developed between not only myself and the other principal cast members, but with the stage crew, the chorus, the orchestra and everyone else involved.
Watching the production evolve from when rehearsals started in October 2016, seeing it develop as the months progressed, watching all of the pieces fall into place was such an amazing sight to behold. It made me very sad when I realised that I won’t be able to experience that again.