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Youth theatre gets to grips with a man-eating plant
12:28pm Friday 13th January 2012 in Local Reviews
Props for theatre shows are usually quite easy to source; the odd hat stand or sideboard doesn’t throw up much of a problem, but what if your production requires the acquisition of a man-eating plant?
When The Pump House Youth Theatre decided to stage the comedy rock musical Little Shop Of Horrors, production manager Deb Littley had no idea what a mammoth task she was in for.
“I really didn’t imagine how much extra work the props would be,“ admits Deb. “Prop advisor Karen Arnott and I have spent weeks tracking items down. Karen is now queen negotiator, not to mention someone who can turn her hand to nurturing 12 baby Audrey plants, while drying out 8ft of intestines in her kitchen.“
The show follows the fortunes of nerdy florist Seymour Krelborn, who nurtures a giant man-eating plant, Audrey 2, named after his fellow shopworker. All is well until his hand-reared bloom decides to bite the hand that feeds her. Naturally, tracking down an Audrey 2 capable of swallowing a grown human was paramount.
“At one point we considered making one but decided it would be far too hard,“ says Deb. “Conveniently one was performing at a school in Hatfield in December, so with the help of theatre manager Stewart Jordan we went along to meet the monster and spent a couple of hours playing with her and learning about how to move, store, operate and climb inside her."
Deb’s son Calum is one of two actors playing Seymour and Yasmin Freeman, plays one of the Audreys. Both went along to meet Audrey 2, which turned out to be four separate and differently sized puppets ranging from hand-held to life-size.
“The anticipation of getting to meet Audrey 2 and learn how we could get safely eaten by a gigantic serial killer plant puppet was almost too much to handle,“ adds Calum. “After hours of back-breaking work and the multiple deaths of Yasmin, we were drained of energy and drenched in sweat but the battle appeared to be won.“
Yasmin, 17, attends the North London Collegiate School. Little Shop marks her third production with the Pump House and her first being eaten by a giant plant.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks,“ says Yasmin. “You have to crouch down and feed yourself through the plant which has these massive thorns and teeth.
“It’s one of the most technical shows I’ve ever done but at the same time it’s fulfiling when you get it right.
“Audrey is a fun character to play. She’s a bit of an air-head but really sweet and the challenge is to make her endearing to the audience rather than irritating.“
Before the curtain rises, the actors have another chance to get to grips with Audrey 2’s tendrils. Professional puppeteer Brian Herring from Little Shop of Hires in Norfolk will be on-hand to give the cast and technical crew an intensive, six-hour puppet workshop.
Little Shop of Horrors is at The Pump House Theatre, Local Board Road, Watford on January 20-21 and January 25-28 at 7.30pm with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Details: 05603 680958
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