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Mr Monkey sees Little Shop of Horrors at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Venue : Royal Exchange Theatre
Start date: 5th December 2014
End date : 31st January 2015
Visit date : 10th December, 2014
Mr Monkey examining killer plants grown by schoolchildren
Mr Monkey looking at the Little Shop of Horrors poster
Seymour (Gunnar Cauthery) is pleased with a plant unknown to modern science (Royal Exchange Production photo)
Mr Monkey took the bus into Manchester and scurried along to the Royal Exchange Theatre for the press night of Little Shop of Horrors.

Before he took his seat, Mr Monkey investigated the Lounge, taking care to obey the warning Don't Feed the Plants. This is a fine display of carnivorous and possibly alien plants cultivated by students from several Greater Manchester schools, who worked with artist Diane Pagan.

Mr Monkey examined the plants from a safe distance, and shuddered to think what might appear on stage.

Little Shop of Horrors started life in 1960 as a Roger Corman movie, filmed in 2 days on a budget of $15,000. It was almost called The Passionate People Eater which, Mr Monkey reckons, would not have helped it achieve cult status.

In 1982 screenwriter Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken turned the film script into a stage musical, which opened at the WPA Theatre in New York, followed by a five year run at the off-Broadway Orpheum. The musical was filmed in 1986, with the ending altered just before release due to poor reactions from test audiences.

This Royal Exchange production returns to Ashman and Menken's original script.

Mild-mannered Seymour works in a flower shop on Skid Row. During an unexpected total eclipse of the sun he finds a unusual plant unknown to human science. This plant is so unusual that its mere presence in a window display makes customers rush into the shop to spend vast amounts on flowers.

The plant (named Audrey II because Seymour is secretly in love with co-worker Audrey) is also unusual in that it only thrives when fed on blood. As Seymour finds himself pursued by the media, Audrey II needs more blood than he can spare and he is forced to adopt unorthodox methods to satisfy his plant's cravings.

The set is simple but effective, just a paved floor with raised edging. This allows it to be, amongst other things, a flower shop, the street outside the flower shop, a dentist's surgery, and a radio studio. The edging doubles as a platform for singers and a store for small props. Props which won't fit inside the set are wheeled in as needed.
Audrey (Kelly Price) has problems with telephone, despite help from the chorus (Ellena Vincent, Ibinabo Jack & Joelle Moses) (Royal Exchange Production photo)
Seymour (Gunnar Cauthery) realises Audrey II is not a nice plant at all (Royal Exchange Production photo)
All the cast are excellent, and Mr Monkey was particularly impressed by Ellena Vincent, Ibinabo Jack and Joelle Moses as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette, the most glamourous street urchins ever, who form a 1950's girl band style chorus throughout the show.

The real stars for Mr Monkey were Audrey II and her puppeteers, Nuno Silvia, James Charlton and CJ Johnson.

Starting as a tiny thing planted in a cigar box, once she's tasted blood Audrey II is larger every time she appears on stage, getting bigger and more ferocious (and requiring more puppeteers) each time. The larger verisons of Audrey II feature long and articulated necks which are held by the puppeteers. The flexibility that this design allows absolutely outweighs any problems that having visible puppeteers might cause, and results in a horribly lifelike creature.

The show ends with a rather loud and spectacular ending, which came as a bit of a surprise to Mr Monkey.

Mr Monkey thoroughly enjoyed this riotous production of Little Shop of Horrors, and recommends it heartily. This is the second time the Royal Exchange have tricked him into liking a musical.

Little Shop of Horrors runs until 31st January 2015.
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