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Little Shop of Horrors

Scene from Little Shop of Horrors at Salisbury Playhouse. Photo: Richard Davenport Scene from Little Shop of Horrors at Salisbury Playhouse. Photo: Richard Davenport
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These days, co-productions make economic and artistic sense. Last year, Colchester’s Mercury Theatre sent an animated pig to sister theatre Salisbury Playhouse with a super production of Betty Blue Eyes, and now Salisbury will return the favour in a few week’s time with this mean, green mother of musicals.

Its mix of sci-fi spoof, black comedy, doo-wop, love story and Faustian pact went down a storm with the Salisbury audience, and deservedly so. Director Gareth Machin plays up all these elements and incorporates a Gothic horror feeling of entrapment, aided by David W Kidd’s lighting and designer James Button’s towering Skid Row tenements and dark alleyways.

It’s an energetic, effervescent production, seething with clever effects and great songs (musical director Richard Reeday and his band are excellent).

Occasionally, the sound seems underpowered on the vocals, but when it hits full throttle it has you rocking in your seat. There are some fabulous voices on offer, not least the velvet tones of Leon Craig’s carnivorous Audrey II.

Ben Stott is an appealing Seymour, striking just the right balance of gawkiness, vulnerability and desperation.

Frances McNamee seems a little too bright for Audrey at times, but her yearning for Somewhere That’s Green is heartfelt and beautifully sung.

Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend has always been a steal, and Jez Unwin grabs the part with relish, coupling it with a series of deftly brush-stroked cameos as media agents trying to sign Seymour.

Karis Jack, Gbemisola Ikumelo and Carole Stennett give street urchins Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette plenty of sass and spring surprises, popping up behind shop counters and through ventilation grates.

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Salisbury Playhouse goes green with an impressive production of this man-eating monster musical