“Aberg’s production is an outrageous success”
Summer is coming to a close but there’s still a chance to grab yourself a ticket to the musical sensation of the season! Little Shop of Horrors, the overly-camp 80s stage musical based on the black-comedy 60s film, was resurrected this year at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Arguably more famous than its original film, Little Shop has become a staple in the world of musical theatre – so much so that some dare to stray creatively from the original production. Maria Aberg’s production challenges seeing the show through fresh eyes and casts US drag queen, Vicky Vox, as the monstrous man-eating plant, Audrey II – normally portrayed by a gigantic stage puppet. What was questioned when first announced, has now become a celebratory success. So much so that in future productions, I may be slightly disappointed in not seeing Audrey II sporting seven-inch sequinned stilettos.
The story follows Seymour Krelborn, a floral shop assistant in the middle of downtrodden Skid Row and his sudden rise to stardom when he comes across a ‘strange and interesting’ plant that puts him and owner, Mr. Mushnik back in business. Though Seymour soon discovers that the plant requires human blood to keep thriving and as it grows and grows Seymour pricking his finger every other day won’t cut it anymore – it requires human flesh. As well as Vox starring as the infamous plant, Marc Antolin plays Seymour, Forbes Mason as Mushnik and Jemima Rooper as Audrey, Seymour’s supportive colleague who is kept under the arms of her abusive boyfriend, Orin (Matt Willis). The cast is complete with Renee Lamb, Christina Modesto and Seyi Omooba as Chiffon, Ronette and Crystal – three young Skid Row girls who act as a whimsical greek chorus for majority of the show.
Antolin is a entertaining Seymour and brings an elevated nerdy charm to him. In most productions, Audrey seems to be more farce of the two characters but here, Rooper’s Audrey is more realistic and grounded. The two still balance each other out perfectly. Rooper’s rendition of Audrey’s solo number, ‘Somewhere That’s Green’, has become an almost heartbreaking monologue. Considering the domestic abuse storyline she goes through, it’s a right move to make Audrey the less comical one for a current production.
Though, Vox’s Audrey II is what everybody is talking about when leaving the theatre. Her effortless charisma is present from the second she stomps onto the stage and she delivers everything you expect and more – terrific vocals, undeniable focus and saturated fabulousness.
Aberg’s production is an outrageous success with the final minutes, number and curtain call matching the camp aesthetic and interaction of a Rocky Horror screening on Halloween night. Exceptional choreography by Lizzi Gee and along with Tom Scutt’s incredible urban design and inventive details (such as the plants in Musnik’s being potted and painted toiletries and household items), it just gets better.
No doubt, Little Shop of Horrors is the show of the summer. Or should I say was? It’s on for only a short while longer and closes on 22nd September. Run and get your tickets! But whatever you do…DON’T FEED THE PLANTS!
Photos: Johan Persson
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“A challenging complex play that seeks to explore the dynamics of a father/daughter relationship”
The latest work from award-winning writer Jody Medland has opened at Barons Court Theatre and runs until September 22nd.
The Unspoken tells the story of Jimmy, a widowed miner struggling to cope with life. Living with his daughter Maggie, blind since birth, he keeps her as a slave and prisoner in the mistaken belief he is protecting her from the evils of the outside world.
In the confines of the basement space of the Curtain’s Up pub, home to Barons Court Theatre, the isolation of Maggie kept chained in one room when not ‘doing chores’ is evocative. With only a crackly radio for company when her Father is at work, Hannah Tarrington is impressive as Maggie, a young woman brainwashed into believing her life is good, she lives in a large ‘palace’, her Father is a respected architect and they eat venison and duck, when the reality is a tiny hovel, poor rations and a brutish Father who regularly beats her. She hears the voice of her dead Mother telling her he loves her really and promises better things to come. A dying Jimmy, full of conflicting emotions and convincingly played by Will Teller, returns home from work one afternoon, remorseful of his treatment of Maggie, while the subsequent arrival of Dr Rose will change her life forever……
The Unspoken is a challenging complex play that seeks to explore the dynamics of a father/daughter relationship. In itself, a complicated subject for any play, however, there are so many other issues alluded to in just 60 minutes there are more questions than answers and as a result serves to lessen the belief in the main story.
The unseen visitor at the front door, claiming to be a priest and who tries to tempt Maggie to let him in, is revealed to be a convicted sex offender – an example of the ‘bad’ from which Maggie needs protecting from by her Father, but this just over complicates and distracts. Jimmy unable to save his brother Robbie in an accident at the pit, a memory of putting an injured bird out of its misery prompting the idea of killing Maggie to end her misery, is too much, as the audience already understands the desperation of the Father and his situation. Similarly, the level of violence he inflicts early on somewhat reduces any sympathy for his plight and it is vital to care for both Father and Daughter if you’re to go along with the play’s premise.
Dr Rose is also presented as an ‘outsider’ who does not fit in due to his disability following an accident and it’s perhaps a little too simplistic to accept that he would be in love with someone he’s never met based on her Father’s wishes for her to be looked after. Elliot Blagden displays a touching sympathy in his portrayal especially when he surveys the conditions from which he plans to rescue Maggie and would have liked him introduced sooner.
Writer Jody Medland is also the Director and it can be terribly hard to ‘let go’ of some aspects of your hard work, even if it would benefit in the long run, so completely understand why he’s tried to keep so much of it included. It would be interesting to see how an independent Director would have approached the play but all credit to anyone bringing new writing to the stage and keeping fringe theatre alive and this should be applauded and encouraged.
Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Road, London W14 9HR Tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org