Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Little Shop of Delights

Aberystwyth Summer Musical

Aberystwyth Arts Centre- Little Shop of Horrors , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August 6, 2013
Aberystwyth Summer Musical by Aberystwyth Arts Centre- Little Shop of Horrors If Wales had an award for stage designer of the year David Shields’ contribution to Aberystwyth’s 2013 summer musical would make him a shoo-in of a winner. His 1950’s Skid Row for the ever-popular Alan Menken-Howard Ashman show is skew-tilted Caligari-meets-Monster House in the colours of a late-evening blue. Mushnik’s flower shop is an exploded box of Roses in Barbie pastels, dentist Orin’s surgery a Chamber of Horrors. And the whole lot moves.

Some musicals carry their moral seriousness blatantly and some do it less so. The racism in “South Pacific” is stressed and constant, that in “Hairspray” less so. In 2012 director Anthony Williams, back in Aberystwyth this summer for the eleventh time, mounted a searing scene on the Civil Rights struggle. There is not a lot of earnestness to “Little Shop of Horrors”. But it is fun, and in a production decked out with panache and brio it is an awful lot of fun.

Producer Alan Hewson has nudged the lustre of the Aberystwyth summer production ever upwards over recent years. The audition call gets a bursting response and a class cast flocks to spend its summer in Ceredigion. James Gillan’s Seymour starts as the universal geek in his check shirt, baggy trousers and diamond-print tank-top. Sarah Earnshaw’s Audrey, in voluptuous leopard print dress and platinum blonde hair, hovers between gaucherie and a haunted knowingness. With a director who is also a choreographer Edward Baruwa and Brett Shiels are together as rockingly rhythmic an Audrey II as her physical make-up allows. She also gets a delicious quiver to her lower lip in anticipation of a luscious bit of lunch heading her way. Paul Holdsworth, Steffan Harri and Owen Thompson must have unique additions to their acting CV’s in being able to include being Audrey’s tentacles.

Sam Giffard is an alarming opening presence as the Demonic Child. Amy Coombes, Mary Fox and Rachel Ann Crane start as shimmying street kids, move to the back gantry as backing singers and end as sequin-encrusted, hair-piled-high Vegas showgirls. Richard Hurst’s Orin, with his rusty drill and nox-induced giggle, is nasty nasty.

The humour in “Little Shop of Horrors” is dark but friendly-dark. The script is a reminder that floristry is linked in intimacy with the funerary business. Jimmy Johnston’s Mushnik gets to dance a surprise tango with his newly adopted son, but there is not a shred of sentiment to the relationship. Orin overdoses in a grotesque goldfish bowl of laughing gas. “Cut the crap and bring home the meat” orders the voracious plant to the depleted Seymour displaying his fingers as a row of plasters.

The score has two high points of emotion. “Suddenly Seymour” is a ballad of the rapture of true love. Sarah Earnshaw earns, deservedly, an early round of applause for “Somewhere That’s Green”. “Far from Skid Row/ I’ll Dream We Go”. It is a sentiment of universal yearning.

Regular Michael Morwood leads the five musicians. Keyboards Jonathan Chalker and Dave Dossett deliver some gothic organ with riffs of ringing guitar from Dan Hall and Christian Carpenter. It is a regular tribute from Anthony Williams that the technicians at Aberystwyth, Nick Bache in the lead, are the equals of anywhere. The all-ensemble singing is thrilling. “Poor Seymour pushed a broom” sings the choral trio “Then that thing went bang ka-boom/ And he’s having some fun now.” Us too.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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