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Little Shop of Horrors showcases Haileybury talent

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Director: Miss Ali Fryer
Musical Director: Mr Derek Longman

It is rare in the history of Haileybury theatre that students should have the opportunity to work on-stage alongside a performer who has clocked up over 1,000 productions. When they find that they are gracing the boards with three such professionals, they are indeed very fortunate. Audrey II.1, II.2 and II.3* are seasoned tendrils in the theatre and have been much in demand since they turned professional just over 20 years ago with their debut performances in the West End. Speaking to them in their dressing room (aka The Scenery Dock), the Three Degrees of musical theatre concurred that it was a pleasure and privilege to be working at Haileybury for the first time and that they were thrilled by the ability of the young actors on stage.

All of the Audrey Iis were delighted to have been voiced by Oliver Lepage-Deane and animated by Melissa Fenner and Oliver Middleton. The combined charms of the sweet innocence and the menacing threat of the "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" were delightfully built up to life-threatening proportions. Lepage- Deane showed a fantastic performance range from the seductive drawl of the Deep South to the root-stomping "Feed Me". The sass and wit of the animation was neatly observed and Audrey II.2 remarked that her hips had never gyrated quite so wildly and thanked Middleton for all of his endeavours: "That’s what keeps me the young sapling that I really am." The Ronettes and the rest of the Company were not to be outdone by Audrey II.2’s shimmying. The Company’s dance routines were very well achieved with some charismatic individual performances and really naughty and tight ensemble work, causing Audrey II.2 to declare that she was impressed by the insight that the company showed in their choreographed routines. The acting was also well delivered with a number of neat cameos from Messrs Beaumont, Garnham and O’Shea.

The catchy tunes are riddled with allusions to hits from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and the disco theme was equally well exemplified by a wonderfully garish lighting design. All of the Audrey II’s loved the fuchsia pink washes as it brought out their tongue colour and the delusional set summoned up reminiscences of the flower power of the Sixties: "Made me feel like a seedling again!"

The playfulness of the score was neatly brought out by Derek Longman and his band, and the knowing winks and nods at some of the essential standards of the period were neatly pointed. Indeed, there are some fantastic pastiches that run through the numbers. Seymour’s tender-hearted ballad of "Grow for Me" was a delightful serenade to Audrey II.1 and beautifully captured that sweet innocence of Seymour’s put-upon character. Audrey II.1 said that it brought a tear of sap to her stamens and that it was a deep thrill to feel quite so wanted and desired.

There is no doubt that Dominic Becker’s performance was utterly nerdy and that he amply captured the vulnerability of Seymour, particularly when played against the schmuckish Mushnik of Jack Rhodes, beset as he was with a greedy need to make money from his Skid Row flower shop. Artfully characterised and tellingly observed, Rhodes delighted with his guileful rhumba à deux in "Mushnik and Son". Audrey II.3 was herself an orphan and she knows only too well the trauma of such dejection and foster-parenting as Seymour experiences. She said that it is always a pleasure to see Mushnik eaten at the end of the Second Act for his abuse of Seymour. And yet she felt that this particular Mushnik had a more tender side to him, too and that Rhodes’s particular rending deserved sympathy – not just spite – as the characterisation evolved from an out-of-luck schmuck and transformed into an obsessed and solitary figure.

Many of you will have read in the papers of Audrey II.2’s recent problems. She herself has been in a long-term abusive relationship with a rather unpleasant Cactus and she obviously has some great empathy with the character of Audrey II’s namesake: the human Audrey (the girl on whom Seymour has set his heart but for whom he must challenge the Dentist). Audrey II.2 is herself in the prime of her life – her skin has a beautiful tinge of chlorophyll – and, as such, she was delighted to be playing alongside Melanthe Grand. "We two are just so alike! We both have an amazingly sensitive side and we always bring that edge of vulnerability with us to whatever we do". The empowering "Suddenly Seymour" shows Audrey’s yearning for innocence and love and it is right and proper that she is prepared to sacrifice herself to show just how much she loves Seymour. Thus it was that Grand’s performance was the perfect foil to Alexander Pilgrim’s beastly Dentist. Audrey II.2 went on to say that she thought that Pilgrim’s realisation of an unpleasant sadist was all too accurate and that he justly deserved his fate of prolonged and ultimately fatal auto-asphyxiation – no doubt just desserts for anyone who wears quite such a lot of black and is quite so malevolent.

The three grand Dames admitted that their enormous talent, good looks and wit were often enough to overshadow other performers on stage but this was evidently not the case in the Haileybury production. The girls also admitted that they can be a cause of jealousy amongst other actors, but the great sense of a corporate community and company discipline that was built up during the course of the production precluded all of this and was much to Ali Fryer’s great credit: "We love you, Ali!!!".

Mwah, mwahs all round and keep an eye out for the next Honours List when surely all three of the Audrey IIs must be up for a DBE.

JH Kazi

* Stage names of the three plants who played Audrey II in each of the different acts of the show.