Press Review: Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical at The Alexandra Theatre

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Fun, witty and heart-warming with plenty of sole

From the pier of Port Isaac, Cornwall to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is loosely based around the true story of the surprise chart-topping Cornish singing sensations and their smash-hit 2019 movie.

Directed by James Grieve with the Book by Amanda Whittington, Fisherman’s Friends tells the story of a group of fisherman in a traditional Cornish village who sing folk songs and shanties to raise money for the local lifeboat. They are spotted by passing visitor Danny (Jason Langley), a former A&R Executive from London who is immediately captivated by the music and convinces them to record a demo to send to Island Records. But is the British public ready for an album of sea shanties and traditional Cornish folk songs?

Yes, they were.

And after watching Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, so am I.

Not once in the many years of attending theatre shows have I sat back and thought, “I would really like to listen to two hours of sea shanties today.”

And yet, I was captivated.

With a heavy emphasis on community and traditions and with social commentary around rural poverty, second homes and the impact of heavy tourism on small coastal villages, the show has a surprisingly heart-warming feel with plenty of comedic moments and one-liners. A stellar and accomplished cast of 19 performers – including James Gaddas (Eastenders, Bad Girls), Susan Penhaligon (Upstairs Downstairs, Doctor Who) and Robert Duncan (Drop the Dead Donkey) – somewhat effortlessly weave their way around the stage while singing their traditional songs with absolute precision and in perfect harmony – not an easy feat when some of the songs are a capella (without accompanying instruments). There is a heavy chemistry between the performers, and their powerful voices blend beautifully as a choir. While it is difficult to single out an individual in such a talented cast, Parisa Shamir as Alwyn was undoubtedly something special – a gorgeous voice who had the audience mesmerised from the beginning. 

Featuring songs including John Kanaka, Nelson’s Blood and Blow the Man Down, the main cast are accompanied by a team of talented folk musicians (many who play multiple instruments) that join them on stage to form part of the Cornish community with an incredible energy.

It wasn’t just the performers that were charming – Lucy Osborne’s set design was simple but effective, cleverly transforming the stage into a pub, a ship, the pier and even a gay bar in Soho, sometimes just with the use of tables and chairs. 

With a well-deserved standing ovation from the Birmingham audience at The Alexandra Theatre, Fisherman’s Friends The Musical is fun, witty and a feel-good story that will undoubtedly make you fall for sea shanties hook, line and sinker!

Fisherman’s Friends The Musical is on stage at The Alexandra Theatre from Tuesday 13th September – Saturday 17th September. Purchase your tickets here!