Stephen Sondheim’s "black operetta", a glorious mixture of Grand Guignol horror and black humour, tells of a barber’s return and desire for revenge against those who unjustly transported him to Australia and then ravished his wife.

It is also a demanding work that often taxes its performers – both professional and amateur. So hats off to Southwick Opera for taking up the challenge.

The direction is good and a versatile set, complete with a proper barber’s chair that dispenses bodies down to the cellar, allows for smooth transitions. The cast work really hard.

Sondheim’s lyrics are intricate and witty and deserve to be heard with clarity. However clarity is often absent through poor projection or lost when the music overpowers. Consequently the audience is disadvantaged, particularly in picking up the humour.

The title role falls to Rob Piatt, who captures the aggressive side of Todd but needs to shade it a bit more. However his delivery of Epiphany is powerful and chilling. As his partner in crime, Mrs Lovett, Karen Bonniface turns in a complete performance – cunning, conniving and comic.

There are also notably good performances from Mike Mackenzie as the Beadle and Tony Adams as Pirelli.