As part of the Inside Out Festival at Curve Theatre Leicester, Nottingham based theatre company Sheep Soup wow the studio audience with their home grown Soul and Motown musical Mrs Green. The musical already comes with a pedigree of popularity from professional airings at the Nottingham Playhouse Neville studio and also at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 where their run sold out and played to great acclaim. Theatre company Sheep Soup are a group of former graduates from Nottingham's award winning Television Workshop. Sheep Soup is run by Nic Harvey the writer of the musical and lyricist for Mrs Green who also happens to play the character Darren in the show. Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie directs this comical play with a solid assuredness towards the wit and sympathetic notes.
The story goes that Mrs Mabel Green (Ben Welch) is about to be farmed off to an old people's home and has invited a group of friends round to her poky apartment for a cheery farewell. The marijuana plants in the living room are already attracting community police attention as the show opens.
Welch plays the elderly Mrs Green with great wit and although Mabel Green – the fairy Godmother of Nottingham- is occasionally naughty with her language she is never crude. He makes her very likeable and sympathetic. The audience feel very much at home watching the play almost as if they were actually in her home sitting alongside the tea, the piles of moving boxes and pot brownies. Welch also has a terrific soul singing voice and clearly revels in delivering the many songs including 'If The Lord Let it Grow', 'Home Made Love' 'Know Your Limits' and 'Mrs Green's Theme Tune'. It is such a familiar and relaxed performance from Welch that you feel the jamming sessions and dialogue is being superlatively improvised as the piece evolves.
The one act show is very much a lively and original song filled theatrical exposition with super fully fleshed characters. Tom Cowling is the local young community police officer Greg and is played as a fairly shy guy until he gets given one of Mrs Green's pot brownies, the effect of which, has Greg wilting to the floor and laughing outrageously at nothing. This is all to the great amusement of Scott played by Kieran Hardcastle. Mr Hardcastle is so brilliantly convincing as the ex bad boy idiot of the piece that it starts to become a wonder how and why the theatre group recruited this half wit. This doesn't mean his character is a cliché, Far from it. He just acts it so well with all his bling, hip hop street wear, reactionary finger flicking, gormless grin and characteristic truth that he is Scott. In my mind this is one of the best authentically portrayed roles in the show.
The two younger women in the piece are Natalia Bruce as ambitious Louise and Sabrina Sandhu as Scott's far more intelligent girl Kim. Both characters are well written and consummately acted each complete with their own history and complications and welfare concerns for Mrs Green.
Then enters the fiery soul singer with a cruel passion for knocking people and knocking back the whisky – Vivian de Wilde. Actress Shauna Shim gives Vivian de Wilde her very condescending best and despite her initial back biting comments to Darren and Mrs Green the audience eventually warm to her. The duets between her and Mrs Green are outstanding and have a real feel good factor in them.
The comic timing from all the cast is impeccable and whilst not a traditional song and dance show it has enormous heart and warmth and the musical numbers are performed with a very laid back and unselfconscious verve. The jokes are expertly and subtly delivered and the tender moments of the piece are very well done. The main thing is that Mrs Green is a feel good show and the Curve audience come out grinning. Ben Welch as Mrs Green is even standing outside the studio door saying goodbye to the audience as they leave. As I left I heard him saying that the elderly lady in front of him is actually called Mrs Green and it is her birthday today! What a treat! You can't make these things up!
|Mrs Green and Ben Welch as.... Mrs Green!|
Review originally written for The Public Reviews on 26th April 2015