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News of Zealand

How That Infamous Sweeney Todd Show Ended Up Slitting Students' Throats With Real Razors

The performance left one student with cuts 5cm deep and his trachea and cartilage exposed.

image via flickr

An investigation has found students could've been killed when an Auckland high-school production of Sweeney Todd went gruesomely wrong, using a real razor for the famous throat-cutting scene.

The razor, which was supposed to be blunted by its duct-tape wrapping, left one student performer with an 8cm-long cut stretching across his throat, which was 5cm deep and left his trachea and cartilage exposed.


A report into the incident by New Zealand health and safety body WorkSafe has just been released, Fairfax Media reports. It found that two of the boys suffered potentially life-threatening injuries when their characters were killed onstage on the show's opening night.

"Major veins and arteries are located in the region where contact with the straight razor is made. Damage to these veins, and especially the arteries, was life threatening," the report says.

It found the two razors used were sharp and could easily cut through paper. "The harm involved…was significant," the report reads. "There was a potential for death."

After the first actor's throat was cut, another student took to the stage and had the process repeated. When they boys' injuries were noticed they were taken to hospital in an ambulance, but the show did not pause, and continued to the end.

The report found that during rehearsals other students had suffered injuries—including razor-blade cuts—just days before the show opened. It found teachers failed to recognise the warning signs, and should have replaced the blades with props.

The Sweeney Todd musical features the titular character as the 'demon barber of Fleet Street', who cuts customers' throats and, along with his neighbour, bakes their bodies in pies.

The production was taking place at Saint Kentigern College in Auckland. The school told Worksafe that the blades should have been dulled by packing tape, and teachers had tested their bluntness by running them across students' skin beforehand. The school could have faced fines of up to $600,000 if prosecuted, but it agreed to an " enforceable undertaking agreement" which cost them $85,000 but meant they avoided prosecution.

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