REVIEW: FISHERMAN'S FRIENDS @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
🎭 Fisherman's Friends The Musical
📍 Theatre Royal, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Friday 9th September 2022
AN UNEXPECTED HIT!
I entered the theatre with a bit if trepidation last night. It's not that I don't like a sea shanty, but I wasn't sure that listening to them for almost 3 hours was quite for me!
I couldn't have been more wrong! This production proves that you should never judge a book by its cover and you should always go into things with an open mind.
As soon as you enter the auditorium, you are transported to Port Issac. You are surrounded by the sound of seagulls and the sea lapping against the shore. There is subtle lighting and you can see ripples on the stage.
Once the show begins, you are welcomed into this small Cornish community and you really feel the warmth and love that the characters have for each other. As someone who lives in a small community, it's easy to see parallels and to relate to the intimacy on the stage.
The Fishermen's Friends themselves are played by James Gaddas (Billy Elliot, Mamma Mia!), Robert Duncan (Into the Night, Caught in the Net), Anton Stephens (Bugsy Malone, Starlight Express), Dan Buckley (The House on Cold Hill, Eugenius!), Dominic Brewer (Sweeney Todd, The Hound of the Baskervilles), Martin Carroll (Catch Me If You Can, The Cat and the Canary), Hadrian Delacey (A Room with a View, Me and My Girl), Pete Gallagher (Only Fools and Horses, Jesus Christ Superstar) and Dakota Starr (Cinderella, The Girls).
They sing beautifully together and when sining acappella, the harmonies are the tightest I have witnessed for a long time. These guys are accomplished singers and they create musical magic when they come together. Individually the best voices belonged to Buckley, Delacey and Gallagher.
This however is truly an ensemble piece. No one feels more important as a character than another. This is showcased beautifully during the curtain call when they all come on and take their bow together.
The story feels very honest. It's just a simple story told beautifully and the audience comes along willingly for the ride.
The standout performance for me came from Parisha Shahmir (The Snow Queen, Mamma Mia!) as Alwyn. Shahmir has an absolutely stunning voice and when she sang and played guitar I was mesmerised. She never tried to over-sing but kept everything beautifully simple. It's almost as if I were sat around a campfire hearing her sing, rather than in an auditorium with 1,300 other people. She managed to create that intimacy and warmth in a huge space which I found incredible.
Her first song 'Village by the Sea' was elegant and left me wanting to hear more from her.
Jason Langley (Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, War Horse) was the outsider of the group as Danny. He is the somewhat narcissistic music producer who stumbles upon the group while on holiday in Cornwall. His character is obviously very different to the rest, but underneath his flaws he has a heart and is essentially a nice guy. Langley had a good singing voice which was perhaps underused. It would have been nice to hear more of his vocals but understand that the story doesn't allow for this.
The musicians in this company are incredible. They are very much a part of the production. They are on the stage and some of them even get some lines and sing! They need a special mention as last night they were missing three members, but you'd never have noticed. They performed wonderfully and are extremely accomplished in what they do. James Findlay (co-musical director) played a few different instruments and also had a good singing voice.
The story feels believable and there are sone real laugh out loud moments throughout. Being in Plymouth, some of the dialect, local references and jokes landed extremely well as the audience understand and could relate. It will be interesting to see how some of these aspects land and are received nationally.
The second act is less jovial than the first as there is betrayal, loss and heartbreak. There are still some fun moments though, such as mashing up a sea shanty with the Village People!
For me, there were unfortunately two miscasts. I didn't enjoy Susan Penhaligon (Three Sisters, The Mousetrap) as Maggie. I could tell she was acting and for me this breaks the illusion of theatre. Penhaligon has a great back catalogue of work and I wonder if it was that she was focusing on getting the accent correct which made her performance less believable.
I also found that Anton Stephens was hard to understand. His diction wasn't great and I missed a lot of his dialogue as I couldn't work out what he was saying.
These minor negatives aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and will definitely be catching the tour again at another venue.
James Grieve's direction and Matt Cole's choreography are just right for this production. Lucy Osborne's costumes are authentic and her set design is functional and works wonderfully.
It's great to see a show with such a large company. Often as a money saving exercise, touring productions have relatively small companies, but this felt like a return to musical theatre as it should be.
Fisherman's Friends has its final performances at Theatre Royal Plymouth today and then sets sail on a national tour until November this year, when it transfers for a two month run at The Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Canada. The show then returns for its final leg of the tour between January and May 2023.
If you are unsure about this show as I was, I encourage you to book tickets. You won't be disappointed by this heartwarming tale, gloriously told and wonderfully performed.
Head to the website www.fishermanonstage.com for tour dates, to book tickets and get show information.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.