Little Shop of Horrors at New Wimbledon Theatre
If you strip away the laughter and puppets, Little Shop of Horrors is a harrowing morality tale that wouldn’t be out of place in a Brothers Grimm book – but it isn’t just macabre fascination that makes it impossible to tear your gaze away from this production.
Masterfully directed, Tara Wilkinson whips her cast into a maniacal craze that builds at feverish pace, with the comic precision you’d expect from the resident director of The Full Monty tour. Accompanied by music from the legendary Alan Menken, vocal support comes in the form of a reassuringly strong cast, including Rhydian Roberts of X Factor fame.
If the connection with one of television’s more doubtful talent shows worries you, your fears are misplaced. Rhydian is a hilarious performer whose haunting giggles and manic grin as Orin were only trumped by his beautiful voice. The rest of the ensemble easily keep pace, with brilliant pomp and surprisingly powerful voices.
The story itself is simple and reflected in the set: focusing around a ramshackle florist shop in Skid Row, orphan Seymour’s luck begins to turn with the discovery of a strange plant with a sinister taste for blood. The physicality of the set helps anchor the rather basic plot, providing room for the actors to play hilariously off each other, while framed in a solidly constructed dystopia. It subtly changes and writhes in beat to the music, brought to life with brilliant puppetry; it’s visual design strengthens it’s over-the-top style that is punctuated by a gleeful darkness reminiscent of Tim Burton.
Overall, it’s the attention to detail that really sets this production apart: Audrey 2 has a fascinatingly pendulous uvula and creepy, leathery neck that is hauntingly reptilian (brought to life by the skilled Josh WIlmott), and the supporting cast flawlessly melts in and out of the shadows to provide depth to the scenes.
The whole experience is incredibly choreographed and thought-out, from the way the audience is asked to turn off their phones to the newspaper stand that changes its headlines to wittily reflect the plot. It seeps into the whole theatre, making it a surprisingly intimate affair without trying too hard (there’s thankfully no running up the aisles).
Little Shop of Horrors is a camp, modern classic. Come for the spectacular visuals and stay for the brilliant cast – Rhydian is the creepy cherry on top.
Little Shop of Horrors is at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 22nd until 27th August, for more information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Little Shop of Horrors here: