Theatre review: Little Shop of Horrors

Our theatre reviewer, Sam Sims, shares his thoughts on Little Shop of Horrors at Hull Truck Theatre.

Oliver Mawdsley as Seymour. All images: Pamela Raith Photography.

There’s a big chance that those of you who are familiar with Little Shop of Horrors probably are because you’ve seen the 1986 film, which starred Rick Moranis (of Ghostbusters and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids fame). The musical film was nominated for two Oscars and has gone down in history as an absolute banging classic.

Interestingly, Little Shop of Horrors actually started life as a 1960 B-movie, before becoming an Off-Broadway stage musical in 1982, written by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. The show has been revived many times over the last 40 years, and still is met with rapturous delight by audiences and critics alike. Little Shop of Horrors is weird – watching it often feels like you’re in a fever dream, it’s colourful, atmospheric and it celebrates the super-freaks. I love it and I think you will too, especially once you’ve seen Hull Truck’s latest, fantastic production. 

The story follows Seymour Krelborn (Oliver Mawdsley), a nerdy orphan working at Mushnik’s, a flower shop in New York’s Skid Row. He harbours a crush on fellow co-worker Audrey Fulquard (Laura Jane Matthewson), and is berated by Mr. Mushnik (Andrew Whitehead) daily. Seymour has created a plant he calls Audrey II, which unfortunately has a craving for blood. Fortunately though, the green-fingered monster makes him an instant celebrity. As Audrey II’s bloodthirst gets more and more out of control, Seymour must choose between success and sanity (oh and love, of course).

This co-production – with New Wolsey Theatre, Theatre By The Lake and Octagon THeatre Bolton – remains loyal to the film, which is my only other point of reference. TK Hay’s set, the iconic flower shop and a New York fire escape, give a real sense of place. The shop especially is so impressive – it is brilliantly vibrant, lit in fluorescent green, with costumes too, especially Seymour’s ‘nerdy’ get up, to die for. One outfit, consisting of a deep green wool vest and brown check trousers, made me want to get on Pinterest and devour ’60s male fashion (which I did when I got home). Hays has done a great job here.

What a stellar cast. Everybody gives such full performances and all get the memo of what’s required of them – namely, don’t take yourselves too seriously and give it some welly when needed. And do they ever. Standouts, especially when it comes to vocals, are undoubtedly Zweyla Mitchell Dos Santos’s Crystal (one third of a trio of naughty school girls) and Matthewson. The latter’s rendition of fan favourite ‘Suddenly Seymour’ is, unsurprisingly, a right treat. 

Audrey II, the human-eating plant absolutely slays. Is it our antagonist? Yes, but you’re gonna love it anyway. Aesthetically, it’s a sight to beyond and it moves in such a realistic way, thanks to puppeteer Matthew Heywood, you might be side-eyeing your greenery when you get home. Keep one eye open. 

Some might consider making a toxic, abusive boyfriend funny, a little problematic and whilst Matthew Ganley’s portrayal of Audrey’s vile other half, Orin, is wildly ridiculous and yes, comical, it still leaves one with a mildly bad taste in one’s mouth. Still, at least he gets his comeuppance. Audrey’s over-reliance on a man to make her happy and aspiring to nothing more than a quiet, suburban existence (in the song, ‘Somewhere That’s Green’) also feels singular and cliched in a post-MeToo world. We do, however, find her becoming a more robust character later on as she realises that, actually all she needs is a friend – an equal. 

Little Shop of Horrors is a really great day or night out and well worth spending your hard-earned pennies on. The songs are fantastic and will get you bopping away in your chair, the performances are impressive and if those things don’t charm you, there’s a great stonking big killer plant that sasses and sings until it gets its dinner. Surely you can’t ask for anything more than that?     

[Sam Sims – Theatre reviewer]

Book your tickets to see Little Shop of Horrors, which runs at Hull truck Theatre until Saturday 8 June.