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Review: Little Shop of Horrors at Storyhouse ****

Little Shop of Horrors the musical started its life in the intimate confines of an Off-Off-Broadway theatre space.

And this new Storyhouse show echoes that feel with a similarly stripped back production featuring a cast of just nine, including a girl group Greek Chorus and the duo who bring the voracious Audrey II to life and are only seen ‘in person’ at the final bow.

The modest numbers, along with the thrust stage configuration, make for an enjoyably intimate, low-fi B-movie storytelling experience, although there are a handful of moments which might benefit from the extra oomph more bodies and voices inevitably bring.

A small quibble however in what is essentially a charming and classily ever-so-slightly-kitsch slice of subversive entertainment.

Mushnik’s Skid Row florist is a faded canvas of dusty shelves, desultory single stems of tatty flowers, and torn posters for the kind of shlocky 50s sci-fi films and comics Little Shop itself pays homage to.

Audrey II is brought to life (or should that be leaf?) in fascinating fashion by designer Jess Curtis and the puppet makers at Entify who have created four separate iterations; growing in size from a sentient sapling to a gaping-mouthed, Garden of Eden serpent-like bully, to the final incarnation – a bloated, verdant Jabba the Hut. If Jabba had been voiced by Barry White that is.

Michelle Bishop as Audrey and Joshua Lay as Seymour. Top: Seymour with Audrey II. Photos by Mark McNulty

The murdering mutant’s enabler is sappy Seymour (played with speccy charm by Joshua Lay) who enters into a terrible Faustian pact with his Belial-tongued creation in decisions driven variously by fear, revenge, ambition and love.

Meanwhile Michelle Bishop gives a tender and poignant performance as timid shop assistant Audrey, the object of Seymour’s tongue-tied affection. Her delivery of Audrey’s wistful Somewhere That’s Green is breath-catchingly touching.

Conversely, there’s absolutely nothing timid about Stephane Anelli who delivers an outrageous, camp, scene-stealing performance as Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s psychopathic dentist boyfriend with a gas-sniffing habit and a sadistic addiction to inflicting pain on others. The hard-working Anelli also pops up in a series of fleeting but flamboyant cameos in the second half.

Under director/choreographer Stephen Mear the production successfully balances silly, energetic set pieces with some heartfelt storytelling.

And while the programme jokes that the show is “not suitable for vegans”, this is a Little Shop that everyone from hardened horticulturalists to vegetable deniers will surely enjoy.

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