Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls

Before posting my review of the most recent book I've read for the Fill in the Gaps list, I thought I'd include some information that might be of interest to readers/reviewers here. I am the book reviews editor at Sloth Jockey, an online literary journal. If you would like some of the reviews of the books on your Fill in the Gaps list to appear there, you can contact me, and I'd be happy to include them at the site. Here's the call for submissions I usually post at other sites:

Sloth Jockey, an online literary magazine, is open for submissions. Please view the guidelines page and send your poems, stories, flash fiction, essays, art, and music in for consideration. Sloth Jockey also reviews books regularly. If you'd like your book or magazine to be reviewed at the site, or if you would like to submit a review of a book or magazine, please see the guidelines page. Sloth Jockey is not yet a paying market, but the editors are working toward that.

Right. So, on to my review of Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls.

The 2007 play written by Yuri Rasovsky is based on the old story in the Sweeney Todd penny dreadful. It's wicked and funny, and more than a little twisted. This is the older version of the story, slightly different from the one filmed in 2007 starring Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, based on the 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical). In this version, Todd is just wicked and greedy, rather than a man tormented after his wife and child were ruthlessly torn from him by a powerful, evil man. Unlike the villain in the musical and movie, this Sweeney Todd isn't driven by a need for revenge, but by a desire to line his pockets with the wealth carried on the person of one customer after another.

The dialogue in the text is really funny, and the way the story moves along is full of twists and turns that make it a lot of fun to read. I can imagine watching this on the stage — it would be a real riot!

If you like the stage at all, and like reading a good play, Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls is one worth picking up.

I also finished another title on my list recently, House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones, and posted my response at one of my other blogs.

Same goes for Brighton Rock.


Anonymous said...

Oh, then this is a play?

I hadn't even considered adding plays to my Gaps list! I just read the The Glass Menagerie and definitely love a play.

I'm not sure I'd enjoy this one? The previews for the movie seemed strange - not really my thing from the bit I could see in clips.

Then again I've been surprised lately and choose not to relegate Sweeney to 'never.'


hifidel said...

I am sure that Sweeney Todd isn't for everyone. I actually first became interested in his stories via T. S. Eliot. As for the movie with Johnny Depp, it was weird and all, but I really loved it. It was funny enough to make the blood and gore (which was over-the-top funny rather than really gory, per se) all pretty amusing.

Anyway, in this version, the humor is there, Sweeney Todd is all out despicable (without eliciting any of the sympathy the Johnny Depp one does), and the twists and turns are loads of fun.

I have several plays on my list, especially comedies. When I made it up, I was working with a friend on a study of comedies (and I watch them pretty often too). I'm still working on an essay about the place of onstage comedy in "serious" literature, so this play was something I wanted to read in connection with that. Putting it on my list helped me get to it more quickly than I might have otherwise.


Anonymous said...

I definitely understand that. It's good to watch/read the greats to understand the complexity of a certain writing style.

I'm not much into comedy myself - mostly because I don't understand how to do it. I can appreciate it, but it has to be really funny to make me laugh. The outrageous comedy usually doesn't get me. It's the dry, subtle humor I find hysterical.

I might give Sweeney a try at some point, though I prefer to read it before seeing the movie.

Good luck to you in your study of onstage comedy in 'serious' literature, Shelly!

~ Corra

hifidel said...

Thanks, Corra!
Let me know if you do read Sweeney Todd somewhere down the road. It would be fun to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and I forgot to say that the story wasn't originally a play, actually, but a "penny dreadful" published in serial form in 1846-1847. It was made into a ballet in 1959, and into a musical in 1979. (The Depp film is based on the musical.)

T. S. Eliot used a character named Sweeney in some of his poems, and in a play (Sweeney Agonistes). It was the Eliot play that first got me interested in the Sweeney Todd story.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff. I love to hear the background on writers and their work. :)

Yes, I'll let you know if I read it.

Corra :)