Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Open Air Theatre Regents Park

PUBLISHED: 15:15 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 16 August 2018

Vicky Vox stars as Audrey II in Maria Aberg's dazzling adaptation of the Little Shop of Horrors ; Credit : Johan Persson

Vicky Vox stars as Audrey II in Maria Aberg's dazzling adaptation of the Little Shop of Horrors ; Credit : Johan Persson

Johan Persson

Caroline David settles in for an evening of open-air theatre as director Maria Aberg oversees a quite brilliant adaption of the Little Shop of Horrors

Images: Johan PerssonImages: Johan Persson

When Little Shop of Horrors opened off-Broadway in 1982, it was an immediate hit.

The mix of musical styles –Doo-wop, Blues, Gospel, Rock, Motown – and the combination of sci-fi horror and political satire struck a chord.

Director Maria Aberg’s inventive production is a visual feast that celebrates the show’s past glories – the movie version became a cult hit in the 80s – but she also brings an impressive warmth to this barbaric tale.

At heart it’s a tragic love story: meek flower assistant Seymour pines for co-worker Audrey who is dating an abusive, nitrous oxide-addicted dentist.

Images: Johan PerssonImages: Johan Persson

During a total eclipse Seymour discovers an unusual plant – he names it Audrey II – which turns around his fortunes.

Trouble is the plant – a grotesque kind of Venus flytrap – craves human blood. Tom Scutt’s expressionist set surrounds Mushnik’s flower shop where they work with a sea of grey buildings that suggests the bleak prospects of Skid Row.

Splashes of green hint at the orgiastic feast to come. As the plant grows, the green on stage seems echoed by the Regents Park setting.

The cast is electric. Matt Willis (of boyband Busted fame) has a raw charisma, as he cackles his way through the dentist’s numbers.

Forbes Masson as the self-serving Mr Mushnik is horribly creepy and his Yiddish Be My Son is a highlight.

You root for Marc Antolin as geeky Seymour and when Jemima Rooper lets rip in Somewhere That’s Green, it breaks your heart. Audrey II is played by American singer and drag queen Vicky Vox – a major coup for the production. Her appeals to be fed as she bursts shamelessly out of her spandex swimsuit are both terrifying and touching.

‘They say the meek shall inherit the earth. They tell a lie,’ croon the streetwise chorus. The grotesque values behind the American dream and the ugliness of our secret desires are laid bare.

If the anti-morality grates, I defy anyone not to be swept away by the waves of festive green – spangles, glitter, neon – or the dancing flytrap cuttings moving ghoulishly amongst the plant’s regurgigitated victims. Brilliant.

Little Shop of Horrors by Regents Park Open Air Theatre runs until Saturday September 22. For more details and tickets, visit: openairtheatre.com

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