Review: Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, New Theatre, Cardiff

Rachel Howells reviews Fisherman’s Friends The Musical which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre until October 25.

Sailing into Cardiff’s New Theatre this week is Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, the true story of the Cornish chart topping buoy band.

Filled with sea shanty music, traditional folk tunes and featuring lots of classic instruments like the guitar, Banjo, Fiddle, tin whistle and concertinas, the musicians were multi-talented as not only did they play more than one instrument, but they also moved around the stage with the instruments while singing along with the ensemble cast.

The Fisherman’s Friends led by James Gaddas as Captain Jim and Robert Duncan as Jago and including Dan Buckley as Rowan, Anton Stephans as Leaville, Dominic Brewer as Yestin and Martin Carroll as Arthur are simply phenomenal. Not only do they look authentic, but they also sound authentic too, as their voices fill the stage area of The New Theatre, it feels like a pure slice of Cornwall has dropped anchor in Wales.

Highlight of the first half was their rendition of What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor, where the choreography (pushing Danny around) really conveys the moving of the songs narrative along.

Jason Langley plays Cockney wide-boy Danny with a certain amount of charisma and likability, and you really want him to succeed in his challenge to get the group a recording deal.  The relationship between him and Alwyn (Parisa Shahmir) sizzles in the background throughout the show.  There were several times that Parisa Shahmir stole the show with her beautiful renditions of songs.

There were so many little stories interwoven within the plot, from Rowan and Sally’s (Hazel Monaghan) struggle to keep the pub afloat while juggling responsibilities with a young family and Jim’s struggle to keep an eye on his daughter’s blossoming relationship and concerns of the pitfalls that fame could bring the group. All this goes on under the watchful and guiding eye of the matriarchal Maggie, played wonderfully by Susan Penhaligon who magically keeps the crew together even when suffering her own personal losses.  

The Fisherman’s Friends set cleverly transforms with dry ice and lighting into so many different scenarios from the wet, windy high seas via a church, to a wild London gay bar.

Cast the net and catch yourself a ticket or for this inspiring and uplifting musical which is destined for longevity with its timeless music and wonderful balance of comedy and drama.

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