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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Three stars
Pitlochry Festival Theatre

SEYMOUR the florist has a lot in common with Macbeth. Like Shakespeare's antihero, the misfit at the centre of Little Shop of Horrors gets his first break through his own skill and resourcefulness. Where Macbeth wins favour by his bravery on the battlefield, Seymour puts Mushnik's flower shop on the map with his cultivation of a previously unseen variety of plant.

For both men, it's only when the going gets good that fatal ambition steps in. Eyeing the chance to take over the florist kingdom, get rich and get the girl, the mild-mannered Seymour finds cause to dispose of his enemies by feeding them to his increasingly hungry plant. The greater the potential prize, the less morally justifiable his actions.

But where Macbeth is told as tragedy, this musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken is played as comedy. This leads to two problems. One is that the tension lessens every time you remember we're dealing not with a tyrannical warlord but an outsize pot plant; to take the premise seriously, you have to buy into the B-movie melodrama, otherwise the whole thing seems silly.

The other is that, comedy or not, Seymour is on a tragic trajectory and, with co-worker Audrey, his Lady Macbeth, he must get his comeuppance. Killing off your two most likable characters is a deflating way to finish a musical, and it takes a rousing encore by the Pitlochry company to win back our favour.

One solution could be to play up the Roger Corman pastiche and make everything look like an ironic in-joke. That's not the route chosen by director John Durnin, who focuses instead on the songs. With their Phil Spector harmonies and girl-group charm, they are jolly enough to distract you from the frivolousness of the story and are performed here with a gutsy energy, creating a jaunty if inessential show.
© Mark Fisher, 2012
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