Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Little Shop of Horrors

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars

In their six year existence, the ever enterprising Sell A Door theatre company have carved something of a niche for themselves by touring brand new productions of hit musicals in a way more readily associated with the heavyweights of commercial musical theatre. Not that being relative new kids on the block has cowed them in any way. Tara Louis Wilkinson's take on writer Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken's 1982 campy pastiche inspired by Roger Corman's 1960 B-movie is very much alive and kicking in its approach.

Set in a Skid Row flower shop that's wilting badly, nerdy botanist Seymour stumbles upon a strange plant that brings dramatic fresh life to the neighbourhood. As the new money moves in accompanied by a media frenzy, Seymour's new status also improves his chances with shy shop girl Audrey, who he names the plant after. Audrey's dentist boyfriend Orin, meanwhile, as played by former X-Factor winner Rhydian, is a big-haired bully with a penchant for casual misogyny and domestic abuse that these days would see him elected president. His doomed penchant for auto-asphyxia while doling out violence, meanwhile, is oddly reminiscent of Dennis Potter's turn in David Lynch's big-screen suburban nightmare, Blue Velvet.

As Audrey II grows out of control and ever more demanding, this soul-singing fly-trap bleeds Seymour dry while success turns everybody monstrous. Beyond a moral centre born of its B movie roots that points up a metaphorical critique of American capitalism, biting the hand that feeds it as it goes, Ashman and Menken also created a knowing parody of hammy horror that grows on you along with Audrey II's all-consuming presence.

If some of the musical backing sounds low-key, it doesn't stop the cast from giving it their all. Rhydian lends Orin's grotesque himbo a goonish swagger, and Sam Lupton's Seymour is a neurotic little guy who ends up being eaten up by the system that Audrey II represents. Paul Kissaun gives shop owner Mushnik a downbeat air as he too is swallowed whole by Audrey II. For sheer comic perfection, however, as the original object of Seymour's affections, Stephanie Clift invests the flesh and blood Audrey with an exaggerated physical jerkiness that looks straight out of a comic book.

The show is carried by girl group Greek chorus Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette, who, as played by Sasha Latoya, Vanessa Fisher and Cassie Clare are a hit. As for Audrey II, voiced by Neil Nicholas and operated by Josh Wilmott, he/she/it morphs into a suitably larger than life creation in a show about greed and how easy it is to be chewed up if you get too big for your boots. Or indeed your plant pot.

The Herald, November 16th 2016


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