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Little Shop of Horrors

Howard Ashman, Alan Menken

Bolton Octagon, New Wolsey Theatre, Theatre by the Lake, Hull Truck Theatre co-production

Bolton Octagon

April 24-May 18, 2024

(also Hull Truck, May 22-June 8)


Janna May, Zweyla Mitchell Dos Santos, Oliver Mawdsley and Chardai Shaw in Bolton's Little Shop of Horrors. All pics: Pamela Raith
Janna May, Zweyla Mitchell Dos Santos, Oliver Mawdsley and Chardai Shaw in Bolton's Little Shop of Horrors. All pics: Pamela Raith

Banner showing a four star rating

One of the advantages of being a reviewer is that you get to see plays you missed. Menken and Ashman's 1982 Little Shop of Horrors had passed me by until this production.

And it's a great surprise: funny, with wonderful lyrics and an exuberant cast, led by Oliver Mawdsley as a nerdy flower shop assistant who discovers a talent for growing people-eating, alien plants. Which, as this is set in capitalist, sensation-seeking America, inevitably leads to a massive expansion of the shop's clientele...

In line with the tradition (eg Guys and Dolls) the other assistant, Audrey (Laura Jane Mathewson), realises her passion for sadistic dentist Orin (Mathew Ganley), is wrong-headed, and the only way to achieve her suburban nirvana is to embrace a man who can manage to calm Audrey II, the flesh-eating plant. As it's a US-set musical, the dentist is an arrogant, rich misogynist with a talent for embellishing his girl friend's face – and not with better teeth. Those who remember the dentist in the movie Marathon Man will recognise the rusty drill that is almost used to good/bad effect. And for those who remember the music of the 1950/60s, it leads to one of the funniest lines: "I'm the leader of the plaque" (note for younger readers - look up the Shangri-Las).

The music is led by a trio with appropriate names – Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette (all names of US girl groups of the past). They are talented, if a little overpowering in the intimate setting of the renovated Octagon. As the audience is close to the action, with every seat having a great view, director Lotte Wakeham needs to sometimes moderate their enthusiasm. But that’s a small fault in a great bit of ensemble playing, with drumming and singing of a very high order.

In the puppet plant – the star of the show – it's difficult to differentiate the puppeteer (Mathew Heywood)

and the voice (Anton Stephans). The voice is wonderful, dark and earthy, as befits a plant, but the puppet itself is wonderful as it grows on its varied diet of nerdy blood and, even better, bits of dentist. I will look at my unnamed fern in our smallest room with new respect...

This is great fun, and the audience responded with not-unwarranted shouts for more.

Go and have a great time.


More info and tickets here



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