After arriving into Edinburgh much later than intended thanks to delays at Heathrow, by 10pm last night I was dying to see some theatre. Where better, then, to try out the official Edinburgh Fringe iPhone app’s “Near me now” feature?
That showed me that Violet Shock were “return[ing] to the Fringe with their much-praised take on the cult musical” Little Shop of Horrors, written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and based upon the Roger Corman film.
Finding local shows at a relevant time is clearly the app’s strong point. Its failing, though is that unlike the full website, it doesn’t link to published reviews. If it had, I might have been spared.
For a start, none of the official Fringe promotional material indicates which productions are, like this one, put on by amateur companies. I’m the last person to want to denigrate amateur theatre – it can produce some amazing, vibrant work sprung from commitment to the art rather than looking for commercial gain – but sadly this production confirmed the worst stereotypes of am dram. There were some truly shocking performances, a lot of mediocre ones and only one truly good voice (in the shape of the actor who plays Seymour). That’s not a good hit rate for a cast in a musical. Vocals were further compounded by attempts to get the audience to sing along. And not to the numbers that invite singalong performances – rightly, we all shut up to hear Suddenly Seymour – but in the narrative numbers that nobody remembers of the top of their head. song sheets are provided, encouraging the audience to look down rather than onstage. Which, in hindsight, may be preferable.
The set and costumes are completely monochrome – a nod, one assumes, to Corman’s film. Occasional flashes of colour crop up, but with seemingly no plan, and may be more coincidence than meaningful design. The worst decision of the lot, though, is to apply the same monochrome look to the actors’ make-up. It results in everyone looking like zombies – an impression not helped by clunky choreography. Furthermore, the make-up is so badly applied, and so clearly not resistant to perspiration, that it ends up streaking badly.
So, as my first Fringe show of 2011, not an auspicious start. Thankfully, my second was at completely the opposite end of the quality spectrum – but more of that later…