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Little Shop of Horrors review at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London – ‘snappy as a Venus flytrap’

Vicky Vox in Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

Little Shop of Horrors is a classic musical of sublime ridiculousness, a Faustian pact with a blood-thirsty pot plant set against a twisted version of the American Dream.

All Audrey (Jemima Rooper) wants is a nice house beyond Skid Row with a square of green lawn. All Seymour (Marc Antolin) wants is Audrey and to make something of himself. Can Audrey II, the demonic exotic plant, make their dreams come true or are we all destined to become fertiliser?

Maria Aberg’s production is modern, snappy as a Venus flytrap and boasts more than a little bite. It’s Ru Paul’s Drag Race blended with B-movie grotesque. There are gruesome moments (especially via Matt Willis’ sadistic dentist Orin), plenty of innuendo and even some onstage vomiting.

Overall, it’s more heavy on the glitz than the gore, but the willingness to go there gives the production a subversive edge.

While Aberg’s production offers something new, the cast serve up model versions of the well-loved characters. Antolin’s Seymour is an archetypal ‘nice-guy’, seemingly adorable, his innocence masking a ruthless ambition. He plays brilliantly against Rooper’s genuinely sweet Audrey, their Suddenly Seymour duet as good as it gets.

The three doo-wopping narrators carry the narrative while blending smoothly with the action. Chiffon (Renee Lamb), Ronnette (Christina Modestou) and stand-out Crystal (Seyi Omooba) transform dance moves that could be cliched through their precision and energy.

The lack of wings and inability to create a full black-out on the Open Air stage can present a challenge. But Tom Scutt has created a dynamic set that injects a velocity, even into slower numbers. Tower blocks are spun across the stage in the down-and-outs’ shopping trolleys, while witty accents such as slightly phallic household objects standing in for Mushnik’s floristry help to delightfully lower the tone.

Director Maria Aberg – from a blood-soaked Duchess of Malfi to a ‘very silly’ Little Shop of Horrors [1]

Audrey II’s initial characterisation by Max Humphries’ puppetry tips a wink to the 1960s movie. Resembling more of a child’s toy in its plastic monstrosity than Frank Oz’s evil avocado, the toothsome triffid is charming rather than carnist. But everything changes when the plant transforms and American drag queen Vicky Vox takes over in full, sequinned glory with her seductive voice and filthy cackle.

From here, there are moments when it all threatens to tip over into a high-budget pantomime, but it’s mostly saved by Vox’s powerhouse vocals and withering glare. From her glittered lips, Audrey II’s famous ‘Feed me!’ catchphrase becomes wonderfully smutty.

This is a fast, intelligently paced show that makes full use of its open-air backdrop. The sunset gives a wistfulness to Audrey’s Somewhere That’s Green, which is sung from the rooftop of Mushnik’s shop, framed behind by the romantic and, we can only hope, non-carnivorous greenery of Regent’s Park.

Verdict
Audrey II gets a drag makeover in Maria Aberg's glittering, grotesque take on the B-movie musical classic

Production

Production
Little Shop of Horrors
Venue
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
City
London
Starts
August 3, 2018
Ends
September 22, 2018
Press night
August 10, 2018
Music
Alan Menken 
Lyrics
Howard Ashman 
Director
Maria Aberg
Musical director
Cat Beveridge
Choreographer
Lizzi Gee
Set
Tom Scutt
Lighting
Howard Hudson
Sound
Nick Lidster for Autograph
Costume
Tom Scutt
Technical
Max Humphries and Tom Scutt (puppet design), Tom Deering (musical supervisor)
Cast includes
Marc Antolin, Jemima Rooper, Forbes Masson, Matt Willis, Vicky Vox, Renee Lamb, Christina Modestou, Seyi Omooba, Joe Allen, Josh Baker, Billy Cullum, Julian Hoult, Rosalind James, Bobbie Little, Helen Siveter, Mary Lynn Tiep
Casting
Stuart Burt CDG
Producer
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited
Running time
2hrs 5mins