ART is imitating life at Eden Court’s alternative to panto.
For the man wielding the razor in the title role of Sweeney Todd is a real-life barber, Pete Langlands.
Although now a unisex hairdresser at Studio 19 in the Haugh area of Inverness, Langlands began his career as a barber, his training including the proper use of the straight razor to give his customers a close shave. Not use it to turn them into the ingredients of Mrs Lovett’s succulent meat pies.
However, Langlands has no fear that seeing him on stage as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street will be off-putting to his customers.
"Most of my clients find it quite exciting that I have this different aspect to my life," he said.
In fact, several of his regulars have promised to see him take the lead role in Sweeney Todd’s Cut-Throat Christmas at the OneTouch Theatre next week.
It is not the first time Langlands has played the throat-cutting anti-hero, having previously played Sweeney in a shorter studio version.
This, however, is a full length Victorian melodrama, performed with gusto by Langlands and his fellow Eden Court CREATIVE drama lab students.
Langlands is amongst the most experienced of the students taught by Eden Court drama worker John Batty, who returns to directing duties for what has become a festive season tradition at Eden Court in its own right.
Langlands even worked at Eden Court as a drama assistant a few years ago, but is relishing a role that combines his day job with his hobby.
"The challenge is getting that fine line between charismatic and maniac," he said.
"He’s still running a business, but at the same time he’s a mass murderer."
Langlands admits he likes playing villains, having played the biggest of them all in Creation where he played Lucifer and Satan.
"I find it an easy side of the personality to tap into," he said, before adding reassuringly: "It gets it out of the system."
Eden Court CREATIVE has been running its non-seasonal shows alongside its main professional pantomime for a number of years.
Past shows have included stage versions of classic British sitcoms Fawlty Towers and ‘Allo, ‘Allo. This year, needing another familiar property that would entice in an audience and provide parts for his 35 students, Batty has turned to Victorian melodrama.
"The other great thing about them for us is that they are always relatively short, about 30 to 40 minutes, because they are always based on these old penny dreadful story papers," he explained.
"It’s easier to produce 45 minutes of material. An hour and a half play is just too long to rehearse."
That means that, in addition to Sweeney Todd, next week’s audience at Eden Court can enjoy a "bonus" play in another of the most popular Victorian melodramas, Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, which is based on a true-life murder in Suffolk in the 1820s.
Batty revealed a secret about the pies the cast some of the cast can be seen scoffing during the show.
One of the three actors required to tuck into Mrs Lovett’s pies during the play is vegetarian, so far from containing the remains of Sweeney Todd’s customers, these pastries have no meat products at all.
However, Eden Court’s restaurant might make up for that absence.
"I believe the restaurant will be selling pies in the interval," Batty revealed.
"Though I don’t think they are going to sell very many."
• Sweeney Todd’s Cut-Throat Christmas is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, at 8pm from Monday 8th to Wednesday 10th December.