A bloodthirsty, mutant plant is eating the citizens of Los Angeles’s Skid Row. The charmingly simple shop assistant Seymour is roped into feeding it in secret, to satisfy his money grabbing boss. This is the basic premise of classic 1960 comedy horror Little Shop of Horrors. As if that wasn’t thrilling enough, Live Live Cinema got ahold of it and have taken it to another level of complexity and excitement. In a screening at the Barbican, performers delivered the voices, sound effects and score live. Only four people took to the stage beneath the screen in what was a tremendous spectacle of both cinema and human endeavour.
The musicians / voice actors / sound effects artists flawlessly recreated every iota of original audio from the legendary B-movie. Part of their rehearsal process was to watch the DVD, over and over again, until they were familiar with every footstep, inflection of speech and nuance of guitar playing. At times it seemed each performer was doing three things at once. The music was beautiful. As a newbie to Little Shop, I didn’t want the performance to end. The voices perfectly encapsulated the characters and the effects were ingenious. A buzz saw served as a dentist’s drill. The munching of cornflakes stood in for someone eating a flower.
It was a really funny production. The people behind it poked light fun at what is already a comical film. They were confident enough to add their own jokes, impressively making it look as though the original cast were saying things they were not.
A young Jack Nicholson appears to say: “Here’s Johnny!”. I got the impression the performers were sending up the rest of the dialogue too by using slightly caricatured manners of speech. The biggest laugh came when a popping noise was made by sticking a plunger to the bald head of one of the players, and then pulling it off.
Having been to such a hugely entertaining screening, I am now a Little Shop of Horrors fan. This modern take on a black and white classic would be well suited to someone familiar with the masterpiece too. The only problem is trying to split your concentration between the film on screen and the hyperactivity beneath it. As Live Live Cinema’s slogan goes, “Where will you look?”