Review Round-Ups

Did the critics give Little Shop the green light?

Did Maria Aberg’s show leave the reviewers wanting to sey-mour?

Marc Antolin and Forbes Masson in Little Shop of Horrors
Marc Antolin and Forbes Masson in Little Shop of Horrors
© Johan Persson

Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage


"On all sides, trolley-pushing homeless wander through an apocalyptic Manhattan cityscape dominated by a shattered movie palace marquee (a tart nod to the shows B-film origins). The creative team have cleverly ensured that almost nothing on their stage seems natural: plastic implements substitute for pot plants, telephone wires hem characters in, revolving skyscrapers loom over intimate scenes. Lizzi Gee's tense, hyperactive choreography adds to the sense of exhilarating menace, as does Max Humphries' lurid puppet design, and the gorgeous, bonkers costumes. The show vibrates with a sort of grim vitality that delights and alarms.

"The performances are key to this. As the central couple Marc Antolin and Jemima Rooper finely balance the cartoon-like excesses of their characters with a sense of poignant desperation that becomes increasingly affecting. They are hilarious but maintain throughout a sadness behind the eyes that make their tender moments really moving to watch. This Seymour and Audrey have a slightly harder edge than usual, and it subtly grounds all the craziness. They're brilliant."

"This is a hell of a show. Fans of the original won't be disappointed and people encountering it for the first time will be delighted, and likely to come back for more. I would give it six stars if I could. Do not miss it. Joyous."

Sam Marlowe, The Times


"When Marc Antolin's nerdy Seymour, shopworker at an ailing Skid Row florist's, first produces his horticultural discovery, she's a pot plant with eerily iridescent tendrils. A taste of blood sets her stamen a-quiver and elicits a groan of orgasmic pleasure. Fully grown and voracious, however, she's quite something else. Jettisoning the usual staging convention of representing the creature with a giant puppet, Aberg has instead cast the American drag queen Vicky Vox. In killer heels and skintight green lycra, glittering and rainbow wigged, Vox struts, growls and croons, spritzing her lady garden with a plant sprayer and emitting occasional unnerving, flirtatious giggles. It works like a dream — or a fabulous nightmare."

"Menken's score of rock'n'roll and doowop is superbly sung, not least by the narrating trio of Renée Lamb, Seyi Omooba and Christina Modestou. Antolin gives Seymour real guts and frustration, and as his beloved co-worker Audrey, Jemima Rooper is no dumb blonde (her hair, in fact, is bubblegum pink), but a damaged young woman with a broken heart full of hope. "

Francesca Peschier, The Stage


"Maria Aberg's production is modern, snappy as a Venus flytrap and boasts more than a little bite. It's Ru Paul's Drag Race blended with B-movie grotesque. There are gruesome moments (especially via Matt Willis' sadistic dentist Orin), plenty of innuendo and even some onstage vomiting."

"Overall, it's more heavy on the glitz than the gore, but the willingness to go there gives the production a subversive edge."

"While Aberg's production offers something new, the cast serve up model versions of the well-loved characters. Antolin's Seymour is an archetypal 'nice-guy', seemingly adorable, his innocence masking a ruthless ambition. He plays brilliantly against Rooper's genuinely sweet Audrey, their "Suddenly Seymour"duet as good as it gets."

"Audrey II's initial characterisation by Max Humphries' puppetry tips a wink to the 1960s movie. Resembling more of a child's toy in its plastic monstrosity than Frank Oz's evil avocado, the toothsome triffid is charming rather than carnist. But everything changes when the plant transforms and American drag queen Vicky Vox takes over in full, sequinned glory with her seductive voice and filthy cackle."

Miriam Gillinson, The Guardian


"Director Maria Aberg wanted to create a darker Little Shop of Horrors and there are flashes of genuine cruelty in here, as Seymour's plant grows out of control. But the defining feature of Aberg's glitter-ball explosion of a show is how she has encouraged her entire company to perform with presence, swagger and absolute abandon."

"No costume is too zany, no performance too quirky, no singing too brassy or loud. Jemima Rooper and Marc Antolin charm as hapless lovers Audrey and Seymour, and Alan Menken's trademark love song "Suddenly Seymour" positively glows."

"Matt Willis is a revelation as sadistic dentist Orin, plastered in tattoos and gleaming with malice. He isn't a brilliant singer, despite his pop-star past, but Wills floods the space with an electric energy. He's upstaged only by Tom Scutt's design, which begins in black and white before quickly bursting into life"

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard


What's most readily perceptible is a freshness to proceedings and that comes, if you'll pardon the pun, from an infusion of new blood to the musical theatre genre. Director Maria Aberg, whose work here is wittily inventive and cleverly nudges our thinking about various all-ravening monsters, is best known for her hard-hitting outings at the RSC, and Jemima Rooper, who plays sweet-natured, put-upon Audrey, is primarily recognised for straight plays.

Her casting will, I'm sure, irk specialist musical actors — she struggles to sustain every note fully — but she's perfect for the part and makes an appealing pair with Marc Antolin's loveably unassuming Seymour. As for the talented Antolin, this is the breakout performance that he has long been promising.

Designer Tom Scutt has great fun with the setting for these horticultural hijinks. Skid Row is decrepit grey cardboard tower blocks, whereas the plants are neon-coloured and ingeniously styled from a variety of domestic utensils. There's tuneful support from the three-woman doo-wop chorus and Matt Willis, formerly of pop group Busted, has a gleeful ball as Audrey's sadistic dentist boyfriend. Horribly good.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"Who is this for?", I wondered. Won't children find it a little safe – adults too? "I've given you sunshine, I've given you rain / Looks like you're not happy 'til I open a vein," runs one typically droll line but shouldn't we feel a perturbing subtext on the pulse? Audrey II is the antithesis of the meek, accepting Audrey (battered by her sadist-dentist boyfriend – Matt Willis's snarling biker-boy Orin). The fleshier, the stickier this man-trap is, the more it can obliquely thrill as a hysterical-satirical vision of liberated female appetite. Despite the coherence of Tom Scutt's design with its newsprint rendering of a derelict New York, it's all borderline anodyne."

"I realise this makes me sound unusually grumpy and the woman sitting next to me demanded I point out that most of the audience had smiles on their faces. Taken on its own schlocky terms there are definitely worse ways to spend a few hours outdoors. And the leads (Marc Antolin and Jemima Rooper) are equally commendable, combining sincerity with spoofiness, while the ensemble lend much physical zip and vocal prowess. The big finale, when the show goes totally OTT – you might say completely ET – in a preposterously costumed rendition of the film's "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" – is a bonkers delight. Last of the summer froth, then. Fun enough. But couldn't it have a bit more bite?"