One Production of 'Sweeney Todd' Used A Real Razor, Leading To Real Throat-Slitting
Sweeney Todd was a 19th-century fictional British character, a barber who cut his customers' throats then chopped their bodies up into meat for pies. He first appeared in a serialized story back in 1846, and within a few decades, he was in more books, unauthorized foreign adaptations, and in his own play. His story was very much a comforting fantasy at the time, an answer to the famous London question "Wouldn't it be great if we had tastier food?"
We're familiar with the character today mostly thanks to the play from 1973, which became a Stephen Sondheim musical and then a 2007 film starring Johnny Depp. The musical's famous enough that it's now popular in schools, despite (or because) of the violent storyline.
In 2016, a New Zealand teacher walked into an antique shop, looking for a set of real razors to use as props for one school production of Sweeney Todd. The owner may have been a little surprised that the teacher thought real razors were needed for the job, but he found a suitable set. He also advised the teacher on how to properly cover up the blades to avoid hurting anyone.
According to the school—Saint Kentigern College, a high school in east Auckland—they did indeed cover up the blades. They blunted them and wrapped them in multiple layers of duct tape and cellophane, so they still looked authentic thanks to the handles but couldn't cut anything. They rehearsed with the blades several times without incident. But over time, the steel managed to work its way through the protective layers.
April 6, 2016, was opening night for the play. During one barber scene, the kid playing Sweeney ran the razor along two classmates' throats and cut both of them open for real. The audience assumed, reasonably but wrongly, that the blood was fake, particularly since the show went on even past this scene. In hindsight, said the headmaster, they should have used plastic props.
The one thing that keeps this story merely spooky instead of tragic is that though the boys had to go to the hospital, they both wound up fine. Neither was actually beheaded (that takes a bit more force). They even successfully petitioned the courts not to prosecute the school, probably satisfied with becoming folk heroes and proud of their badass scars.
This fact came from the new One Cracked Fact newsletter. Want more like this, straight from your email inbox, without any ads or popups? Join here:
For more on Sweeney Todd, check out:
Top image: Paramount Pictures