Shaving tips

The moral of Sweeney Todd appears to be: never visit a Dickie Davies-lookalike barber working above a pie shop. Oh, and never eat the pies.

Chris, Melanie and I braved the crowds at the Picturehouse last night to see Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, two shock castings for a Tim Burton movie, sing their way through various brutal slayings.

Depp’s Todd sports a direct descendant of the Jack Sparrow accent; his arrival at a grim, almost monochrome, early nineteenth century London by boat made me momentarily think I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean 4: The Dark Knight Returns, but then he bursts into song. Well, not burst exactly. He’s not Julie Andrews and we’re not up a mountain with some annoying children, a job lot of lederhosen and some rubbish Nazis. Nor does the entire cast suddenly start dancing, possessed by the tortured souls of a thousand Dick van Dyke chimney sweeps. When the time is right, characters just start singing instead of talking.

With music by Stephen Sondheim the songs are high quality; they’re altered from the stage musical but apparently not completely different. The lyrics are worth paying attention to – they’re often funny and always clever.

The only strong colour in the film – apart from one brief sequence that’s more in the mind of Bonham Carter’s Mrs MigginsLovett than reality – is red. And that’s confined to the several, spectacular scenes in which our demon barber despatches his victims, usually to a jaunty tune. If you are at all squeamish about blood – in particular, blood gushing copiously from freshly sliced necks – then I recommend watching something more pedestrian instead, like, say, Driller Killer.

From the supporting artistes, Alan Rickman plays Alan Rickman to great effect, as usual. Timothy Spall enjoys his part tremendously by the look of it, and I’m glad to say there’s a great performance – even in the songs – by child actor Ed Sanders playing Toby. Sacha “Ali G” Baron-“Borat”-Cohen appears as a rival barber, adding a touch of humour to the early stages.

It’s a fantastic film and a strong contender for my film of the year, even though it’s still January.

Avaragado’s rating: one mince pie

After the film we returned to the Picturehouse bar to join Louise, Colin and Louise#2 for a quick drink, then all six of us went for a meal at Varsity.

My only previous visit was in November or December 1988. It was near the end of my first term at college (which is why I can pin it down to those dates) and all the current Cambridge students from my school were invited to dinner by our headmaster, Chris Lowe. I’m not sure why; he never did it again.

Following the “never again” theme, I suspect my next visit to Varsity might not be for another twenty years. The food was OK but the service was appalling. It took them ages to take our order, and our waitress struggled with it – returning at least twice to clarify details. Many of the dishes weren’t available, neither was our first choice of wine.

Only two of the six starters arrived; and then a third, but it certainly wasn’t the hummous the waitress claimed it was – it was grilled halloumi – so back it went. It must have been about ten minutes later when another waiter asked us whether we were waiting for more starters. Almost as he did so more appeared, but not my hummous+pitta. Eventually I got the hummous, but the waitress mumbled “no pitta” at me and scurried off. Louise#2 shared hers with me. (The “no pitta” was a blatant lie, since more appeared later.)

It took another age for the starters to be cleared. The main courses arrived with a mumbled apology that they were running short of salad, so we got smaller portions. Nice. Louise#2 said her halloumi tasted of salt with a hint of cheese. My moussaka was OK but I wouldn’t have called it hot.

Not coincidentally, we talked for a few minutes about Fawlty Towers.

Speaking as an expert on restaurants, having watched almost all episodes of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, I’d hazard that the kitchen had lost control of the orders on a busy night and our waitress was new on the job (and not particularly fluent in English).

Oh well. We heavily under-tipped and scarpered.

Avaragado’s rating: one tin of fruit salad

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