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Little Shop of Horrors

“Snappy as a venus flytrap”

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

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.

Related to this Review

Jemima Rooper ‘I’m only cast in parts that are strong or strange – it’s frustrating’Jemima Rooper ‘I’m only cast in parts that are strong or strange – it’s frustrating’

Production Details
Production nameLittle Shop of Horrors
VenueRegent’s Park Open Air Theatre
StartsAugust 3, 2018
EndsSeptember 22, 2018
Running time2hrs 5mins
ComposerAlan Menken
LyricistHoward Ashman
DirectorMaria Aberg
Musical directorCat Beveridge
Musical supervisorTom Deering
ChoreographerLizzi Gee
Set designerTom Scutt
Costume designerTom Scutt
Lighting designerHoward Hudson
Sound designerNick Lidster For Autograph
Puppet designerTom Scutt
Casting directorStuart Burt Cdg
CastJemima Rooper, Billy Cullum, Bobbie Little, Christina Modestou, Forbes Masson, Helen Siveter, Joe Allen, Josh Baker, Julian Hoult, Marc Antolin, Mary Lynn Tiep, Matt Willis, Renee Lamb, Rosalind James, Seyi Omooba, Vicky Vox
TechnicalMax Humphries
ProducerLimited, Music Theatre International, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
VerdictAudrey II gets a drag makeover in Maria Aberg's glittering, grotesque take on the B-movie musical classic
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Francesca Peschier

Francesca Peschier

Francesca Peschier

Francesca Peschier

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