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Two Necks Slashed In School Production Of Sweeney Todd

Two students were taken to the hospital last night after the opening night of a production of Sweeney Todd went horribly wrong, with both 16-year-olds suffering cuts to the neck.

An Auckland, New Zealand, school production of Stephen Sondheim’s famous musical got a little too realistic when one of the key props, the razor blade, proved to be too sharp and injured both Saint Kentigern College boys, one seriously. They were taken to Auckland City Hospital and reportedly released today.

Detectives are investigating the incident, but a police spokesperson said it was an accident and there was nothing to indicate anything untoward took place on stage.

They told the NZ Herald, “It’s not a criminal inquiry. In this instance, the play is not the reality.”

Sweeney Todd is all about a barber who murders his customers and, in a business practice that would now be called synergistic, sends their remains to the downstair’s baker to be baked into pies. The musical had been chosen specifically to challenge the students, and the head of the private college, Steve Cole, defended its selection to Newstalk ZB.

“It was chosen because of the very nature of the talented young men and women we have in year 12 and 13 who wanted something that would push their skills and the boundaries,” he said. “It was deemed important to make it as realistic as possible.”

Steve said the incident was unfortunate and isolated. The razor, which did not have a sharp edge, had been used numerous times before in at least eight dress rehearsals.

Saint Kentigern College has postponed tonight’s performance of the play and issued a statement saying that they are “very focused on helping other cast and crew members, along with the wider school community and have offered all students counselling.”

Steve Cole defended the use of the prop, which was believed to have been purchased at an antique shop. The school head insisted every measure had been taken to ensure student safety and conceded that in hindsight, it may have been better to eliminate all risk, but the drama students had been adamant about making the play look as authentic as possible.

“It has been bound and cellophaned and all sorts of things. It was very non-sharp. It had been blunted and had been through all sorts of health and safety checks,” said Steve Cole. “It was a very unfortunate mistake.”

You can listen to Steve Cole speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Larry Williams, recorded by NZ Herald, below.

The owner of the antique shop where the razors were believed to be bought sold a teacher from the school two blades, which retail for about $40. Staff from the shop were upset by the news but said the sale of cut-throat razors was not unusual, especially with the growing popularity of single-blade shaving.

The owner of the shop, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “You can sell someone a brick and if they drop it on their foot you would still feel sorry for them.”

There was some early speculation that the boys had not been injured by the blades, but rather the trapdoor that is an essential part of the production. In the musical, the “bodies” are disposed of downstairs to the pie shop, and there was some confusion as to whether it was this trapdoor that had caused the accidents, but Mr. Cole’s statements and media comments seemed to dismiss this early rumor.

[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]