Credit: The Eglesfield Musical Society

Ollie Khurshid’s rendition of Little Shop of Horrors is a lighter take on the black comedy, focusing on charming characters and rhythmic songs that guarantee you will find yourself laughing loudly with the rest of the audience. With a strong cast and a solid band, the musical is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, even though it does sacrifice on some of the darker themes of the source material. 

The play starts with Chiffon (played by Arya Nagwani), Ronnette (played by Maya Sankaran), and Crystal (played by Gabriella Ewulomi) introducing us to Skid Row with a number that sets the delightfully ironic tone for the rest of the play. After a quick introduction to Mr. Mushnik (played by Declan Ryder) and Audrey (played by Eva Bailey), we are introduced to our protagonist, Seymour. 

Played by Cormac Diamond, Seymour is a dorky underdog from the start. Diamond’s stage presence manages to create a lovable character while simultaneously conveying the clumsy, confused, down-on-his-luck florist. His singing successfully captures the emotional twists and turns of his character’s songs. 

Eva Bailey’s Audrey starts off unassuming on stage, but she comes into her own as the play goes on. Though never as tragic as other interpretations of the character, Bailey presents an endearing Audrey who is easy to root for. A highlight of the show was her sweeping performance of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ which fit perfectly within the Queen’s College Gardens. 

After the opening, Seymour introduces Audrey II, a strange plant that he bought from a Chinese shop under mysterious circumstances. The small plant in the beginning is a cute puppet. However, this plant rapidly grows and eventually comes to be portrayed by Jelani Munroe, who absolutely steals the show with a powerful voice and stellar acting. This is where the crew and direction is also at its most creative, capitalising on the physicality of Audrey II and the stage to create some of the best scenes of the play. 

Audrey II brings Mr. Mushnik customers and brings Seymour fame, but Seymour learns that there is a cost involved: the plant must be fed with human blood. The rest of the play follows Seymour as he deals with Audrey II’s bloodthirsty demands, seductive trappings of fame, and his love for Audrey. 

Act I also introduces us to Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, Orin (played by Alfred Dry). In a captivating performance, Dry switches effortlessly between comically overboard and genuinely scary, and has the audience laughing one moment and unsettlingly silent the next. He commands the stage and is the centre of attention whenever present. 

The costume and prop departments add soul to the show with a set-up that is effective in bolstering the characters and surprising in all the right ways. While Audrey II’s design is undeniably what stands out most, everything from the poster in the shop to Seymour’s nerdy get-up has clearly been chosen with care.

The show is strongest when it uses the emotional peaks of the story to deliver incredibly funny scenes. I am not exaggerating when I say I was uncontrollably laughing at various points. In these moments, the characters feel exaggerated just the right amount, the delivery of the song-lyrics is perfectly timed, and the music is on-point. 

On the other hand, the show misses out on some of the emotional weight that the story could have delivered. For example, while Seymour and Audrey are sweet together, their story as a couple is not given enough time to properly breathe. The beginning of the second act was particularly rushed in pacing, running through emotional beats without giving the audience time to absorb them properly. 

In a larger sense, the show lets go of some of the darker themes present in previous versions of the Little Shop of Horrors. All the characters are relatively likeable, and usually positively charming. Actions by antagonists are too exaggerated to inspire serious negative reactions from the audience (the exception being Orin, who does create a sense of genuine discomfort). Dark humour is traded off for more situational humour. That said, even though I missed the depth that the darker themes would have added, this lack did not distract from what the production did well. 

At its core, Little Shop of Horrors delivers a beautifully funny show that is worth watching for the entertaining performances, the soulful songs, and the creative staging.