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THEATRE Little Shop of Horrors/ Liverpool Empire Theatre.

Byline: EMMA PINCH

IT'S not every night you choose to pass two hours with a plant.

But this isn't any old petunia.

This is a plant possessed of a velvety smooth voice, cutting wit and keen taste for fresh human flesh.

Paying homage to Fifties sci-fi films, Little Shop of Horrors is the off-Broadway hit stage version of the 1986 film It opens at struggling Mushnik's Florists, Skid Row, where the proprietor is about to throw in the trowel. Downtrodden assistant Seymour finds a "strange and interesting new plant" he calls Audrey 2 after fellow assistant Audrey, played by the excellent Clare Buckfield.

But the plant becomes stranger, hungrier and meaner, and leads Seymour down a dark path.

Mernier Chocolate Factory's production is a vibrant and energetic affair and packed with rich dark comedy..

It thrives as the plant does.

Towards the end of the second act, both the play and the plant put on a spurt when Seymour has a blood-spattered showdown with Audrey's sadistic dentist boyfriend, Orin Scrivello. Alex Fearns, who also played the violent Trevor, in Eastenders, works the part for every last drop of insane menace.

Former Dr Who Sylvester McCoy gives a nod to New York Jewish comics with his turn, and his experience shows. The star of the show is, without doubt, the plant. There are some gorgeous set pieces where the fat, tentacled plant, bathed in green light and with a kicking figure hanging from its chops, presents a scene straight from a 50s BMovie poster.

The modellers did a superb job, as does Clive Rowe who voices the plant to absolute perfection. His humorous oneliners - a particular favourite is his smutty sleep talking - provide the funniest moments in the play.

The only frustrating aspect was when several of the cast sang together - particularly the Ronettes-style trio who provided lyrical narration - it was well night impossible to discern the words.

In these days of saccharinesweet Disney productions, this richly dark comedy went down a treat.

EMMA PINCH
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 5, 2009
Words:334
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