Entertainment / Arts And Books

Adriaan Roets
3 minute read
17 Oct 2015
8:00 am

Behind the scenes at Sweeney Todd

Adriaan Roets

They’re sitting on a couch just outside Charon Williams-Ros’ dressing room at the Pieter Toerien Montecasino Theatre.

Jonathan Roxmouth prepares for his role as Sweeny Todd at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Monte Casino, 14 October 2015. The musical tells the story of Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to London to take revenge on those who cwho jailed him for 15 years. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

There’s a little nook with a kettle and a coffee and tea stand. It’s very informal and cosy. Williams-Ros has her legs on Jonathan Roxmouth’s lap, they’re chatty and accommodating. It’s a complete departure from the maniacal characters they are set to play in a few hours just outside the doors of this informal space.

They are the stars of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – a musical thriller dealing with bad blood. It’s a musical that upon its first run in New York’s Broadway district had producers aware of the fact that its darkly fascinating story about a fictional serial killer will have some audience members run away screaming.

Roxmouth knows this is the potential dangers of the first South African production as well.

“The funny thing is, the audience goes very quiet. They stare at the stage and seem floored. Then at the end everybody clap like mad. Sweeney Todd’s mission is not to entertain, it’s to thrill. It’s thrilling to see the audience question themselves,” he says.

In this show the audience become witness to a man who slashes his victims’ throats with a shaving-blade – and they applaud his actions. It’s amoral and amazing at the same time.

This is why Roxmouth finds the roll of Sweeney Todd such a delicious departure. He admits that he usually plays the heart-breaking or lovable character – this time he’s empowered by that fact that he gets to kill people in front of a wide-eyed audience. No singing about the Music of the night this time around.

Joining him on a blood-thirsty crusade to make South Africa question themselves is Williams-Ros. She has the plum part of Mrs Lovitt, Sweeney Todd’s landlord and the women who encourages Todd to start killing off his foes, and just as an added stomach turning story device bakes his victims’ carcasses into pies. Willams-Ros was part of the first production of the show in Durban.

“KickStart (productions) wanted to do Sweeney Todd and they had no idea how audiences would take it,” she says.

After a few shows in Durban the show was picked up for a run in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Williams-Ros made such an impact as Mrs Lovitt she was included for the new show that had a few cast changes, as well as the inclusion of Roxmouth.
Both are intrigued that their age difference makes the show a little raunchier, and a bit darker subconsciously (considering Mrs Lovitt is enamoured
by Todd throughout a story that already features a bizarre relationship of enabling).

Mrs Lovitt never murders anyone however, and Williams-Ros is happy it saves her from being squirted with stage blood during each performance
of the show. Roxmouth however is reeling in the sensation of this bizarre concept of being able to kill someone amidst thunderous applause.

“During Act 2 I kill someone and the whole house claps for the kill.”

The show is meant to be eerie, and a both actors say that their costumes and make-up manages to complete their killer look.

“The wig sucks the life right out of my face,” laughs Williams-Ros.

Roxmouth says the make-up is supposed to make them look worn.

Last year Roxmouth was touring while performing in the play Jeeves and Wooster. He was lucky enough to have a mini workshop with the
make-up artist for the preview run of the show in Durban.

Look closely and you will see the look is meant to almost replicate a skull, or at least make Roxmouth look sullen and almost diseased. For the TV age, the actor believes Sweeney Todd kills the competition, because it is almost like watching a show like Dexter on stage.

“It’s challenging the audience. That’s Sweeney’s greatest strength and weakness. It is a show of extremes.”

With only a few hours until curtain call, it’s time for Williams-Ros and Roxmouth to get rid of their chirpiness and start preparations to transform into a deadly duo. It’s nice to know the murderer and hsi accomplice on stage is nice in real life.