Little Shop Of Horrors
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
Stage by Stage
Stage by Stage's unfortunate attempt at a Fringe musical is brought down by too many bad directorial choices and not enough charisma.
The Exeter-based performing arts training school has brought Little Shop of Horrors to the Fringe for a second time having performed it at the festival in 2001. However this portrayal of the 1950s spoof rock musical just doesn't hit the mark another time around.
The show tells the tale of Seymour (Will Trafford), a young geeky guy working at a run-down florist's shop. While hunting out ways to make the shop blossom again, he stumbles across a new, odd-looking venus fly trap during a total eclipse of the sun. While it does make business prosper and Seymour famous, it begins to take advantage of him calling out for blood and eventually bodies to feast on.
The young male protagonist is a quirky actor with a fun personality and is fun to watch, yet his vocals are at times slightly patchy. Nowhere near as bad as the three teenage street urchins Ronette (Georgia Tapp), Crystal (Abby Purdy) and Chiffon (Alysha Prowse) however, who, whilst wearing costumes easily taken from a 1990s keep fit video are unable to sing in harmony on nearly every occasion it is asked of them. Their lack and pizazz that those parts require is missing from the entire show creating a big hole in the performance.
Credit must be given to Bryony Buckingham as Audrey who (like most) does not portray any true emotion especially through the hard-hitting scenes but is able to carry the show forward with her grit and determination of a better life. Jon Bisby as Mushnik on the other hand is not so hard-hitting, putting on a poor accent and odd acting technique to portray the Jewish shop keeper. "Mushnik and Sons", a song between himself and Seymour, one of the happiest and supposidly funniest moments in the show, loses all energy and a lack of energy hindered the outcome of the performance.
The choice to cast the plant as a girl and not a puppet has its positive and negative outcomes. Audrey 2 (the plant) actress Laura Porter has a stunning vocal ability so being able to see her allows the audience to enjoy her talent even more. However its downsides are extensive. The throne-like chair created for the human foliage made the plant look almost too regal, not a characterisation fit for that part in any way, and the ability it gave the plant to move about, although an interesting decision, looked very awkward on stage.
The choice to have Seymour's trousers open for a whole scene just so the dentist can pull them down to reveal Spongebob Squarepants undergarments is one of the strangest decisions to be found at the Fringe this year. Also the addition of a song not in the musical but included in the 1986 movie of the show, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space", is not only unnecessary but comes out of nowhere at the end of the show for no real purpose at all.
There are some good elements to the production like certain chorus members really standing out (Tom Gibbs as a radio presenter really showing fun flair and personality on stage).
Overall the abridged production lacks focus and drive that you really need for a high-energy show such as Little Shop of Horrors. The young people of the cast have much to be proud of, bringing a show to the Fringe, but the show itself cold do with a few more weeks' rehearsals.
Little Shop of Horrors runs until 25 August at Sweet Grassmarket.
Reviewer: Liam Blain