Julia Atherley takes a trip to Skid Row.
Little Shop of Horrors is the latest production by Foot of the Hill Theatre Company. Staged in St Mary’s College dining hall and directed by Kimran Rana, the energetic musical was a great choice for a college theatre company. With a stage full of flowers and the ever growing Audrey II, it was clear from the beginning that this was to be an ambitious yet endearing show. As a long serving fan of the musical I must admit that I was initially apprehensive when entering the dining hall as it is a difficult space to stage a show of such magnitude. But this is a musical that does not take itself too seriously, and the result is a loveable production filled with standout performances and easy flowing humour.
The scenes in this show moved quickly from carefully timed humour to deep sincerity and many actors would typically struggle to move between these levels whilst also facing the challenging musical numbers. However, Rana’s cast dealt well with the transitions and embodied their characters throughout each of their respective songs. Pip Orchard was well cast as the bumbling Seymour and showed immense talent in both his comical scenes and the deeply emotive ‘Suddenly Seymour’ with Audrey, played by Chloe Blakesley. Blakesley displayed an impressive vocal range and provided a well needed contrast to the assertive male characters. The three Urchins (played by Hannah Ambrose, Juliane Thorbjorsen and Stacey Cockram) provided a Greek chorus-like influence with notable harmonies and fun choreography, which added to the enjoyable tone of the show. The character of Orin, played by the only non-Mary’s actor Rory McNeilage, brought an overt seediness to the role as he fully embraced the sadist character. It is a shame that some lines were lost behind the mask, however an excellent technique was conveyed despite these difficulties.
Despite the impressive acting, the real star of the show was Audrey II. With four different plants used throughout the production, credit must be given to Producer Laura Jane Hepworth and Assistant Producer Hannah Smith. Such a prop would be intimidating for most production teams and could result in being a huge burden on the show. Instead the plant provided humour and a central focus for the audience. Voiced by Peter Galea and controlled by puppeteers Tamzin Kerslake and Prudence Vary, Audrey II exemplified the light-hearted energy of the musical.
The problems faced in such a space as Mary’s dining hall did however have a negative effect on the production. Issues with microphones sometimes distracted from the acting itself and some lines were lost to the space. There were also unavoidable problems with visibility due to the nature of the room. Nonetheless, the boisterous tone of the show more than made up for these reservations and ensured that the audience enjoyed every scene despite technical issues.
Facing such a well-known and successful musical might at first appear to have been a risky choice for a college theatre company. But with an excellent band and a well-cast set of characters, Director Kimran Rana and Assistant Director Mary Lord should be very proud of the show they have achieved, which does not hold back in either its comedic or musical talent. Do not hesitate to head to St Mary’s dining hall, briefly transformed into the charming Skid Row, for a show full of unrestricted energy as well as some incredibly talented performances.