Stars of Stage and Screen


Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Wednesday 10th June, 2015


The celebrated musical of stage and screen was based on Roger Corman’s original low-budget movie of 1960, which tells the story of a lowly florist worker who enters into a Faustian pact with a man-eating plant. New Zealand’s Live Live Cinema have unearthed the source material and present it in full for our delectation – but with a twist: the soundtrack is live, performed by a quartet of actor-musicians, who provide all the voices, create the sound effects, and play the incidental score. It’s like visiting a Foley suite or a radio drama – but it depends where you look. You can watch the movie, projected over their heads, or you can observe the sometimes frantic carryings-on of the performers as, with exquisite timing, they dart around from prop to prop, dropping into one character after another, as the images on screen dictate.

Corman’s film is populated by oddballs and fits this treatment well. The craziness is augmented by some nifty interpolations: Jack Nicholson in an early cameo appearance is given his iconic ‘Here’s Johnny’ line, and there are various mutterings and mild expletives to add to the fun.

Before long, I am focussing solely on the screen. I don’t need to see the actors take a running jump at a doorbell on a wire every time the shop door opens. And so, what begins as a novelty becomes an avoidable distraction from the on-screen action. The film is a comparatively short one (less than one hour twenty) and so it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

The experience is an enjoyable if inconsequential one. Corman’s fable tells of the sacrificing of morality in the pursuit of profit, something that is still all-too-relevant today. Instead of amplifying or subverting this message, Live Live Theatre, ironically, let the film speak for itself.

By the end, the performers must be exhausted. Versatile and talented, they work non-stop to keep up with the projected images. Hard to single anyone out – and unfair – so I’ll just list them: Laughton Kora, Barnie Duncan, Byron Coll, and Hayley Sproull. Their antics are directed by Oliver Driver and you can’t help wondering how many hours were spent perfecting the timing and creating the sound effects (nod to Foley artist, Gareth Van Niekerk). Original music is by Leon Radojkovic, capturing the period and the kitsch of the piece perfectly.  The movie may be schlocky but there is a sophistication, albeit a manic one, in the way it is presented here.

With broadcasts of live theatre and opera etc now firm fixtures at our local cinemas, and with events like Secret Cinema becoming more prevalent, Live Live Cinema is a welcome and enjoyable addition to this trend of viewing the projected image as a live event, harking back to a time when going to the movies was cheap and cheerful and a whole lot of fun.

On stage: Laughton Kora; on screen: Mel Welles as Mr Mushnik

On stage: Laughton Kora; on screen: Mel Welles as Mr Mushnik

About williamstafford

Novelist (Brough & Miller, sci fi, historical fantasy) Theatre critic and Actor - I can often be found walking the streets of Stratford upon Avon in the guise of the Bard! View all posts by williamstafford

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