Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical (UK Tour) – Review

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

21st February 2023


Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is based on the true story of the chart-topping Cornish singing sensations and their hit 2019 movie. The story follows a group of Cornish fishermen who sing the traditional working songs as they embark on a feel-good voyage through friendship, music and community to land up performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Fisherman’s Friends is funny, moving and full of gorgeous melodies and harmonies.

Fisherman’s Friends is a fantastic mix of comedy and emotion at the same time. The musical is closely matched to the film and the original true story so fans will not be disappointed. The direction, from James Grieve, is excellent with the characters coming to life instantly. Some of the scenes, including the storm in the second act, are brought to life brilliantly by the movement of the cast and lighting by Johanna Town which makes a difference from the recent norm of having flashy video projections or illusions. The feel of community and comradery is evident from the opening number and with constant references to Cornwall, including the one-liner jokes and digs at nearby Somerset and Devon, it feels quintessentially British. The set, designed by Lucy Osborne, is very effective with its multi-levels and the prop pieces are well used. The fisherman’s ship is both simple in form and yet highly effective. Matt Cole’s simple choreography in a traditional style by is also used well and further emphasises the community feel which is so important to the story.

Of course most of the audience have come for the vocals and the cast of Fisherman’s Friends so not disappoint. The acapella sections are fantastic with the harmonies blending perfectly. These sections are very powerful and you could hear a pin drop. The traditional sea-shanty’s are what makes the show and they are the perfect mix of comedy and emotion. There is a mix of well-known songs such as ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor‘, ‘Pay Me Money Down‘ and ‘John Kanaka‘ featuring new arrangements by the original Fisherman’s Friends as well as a range of other songs from a variety of artists. The musical arrangements by David White are exceptional, particularly ‘The Tidal Pool’ performed and written by Parisa Shahmir. Her voice has an ethereal quality and works so well within the context of the show. All of the cast are highly talented and you’d be forgiven for believing they really are Cornish fishermen with a talent for singing.

One of the highlights of the show is the inclusion of the band onstage. Often shows use the band in this fashion, having them visible onstage or at moments throughout the show but Fisherman’s Friends goes above and beyond this. The outstanding band are used constantly as full members of the company, joining in with the songs, dancing and even having acting parts as well. The level of talent shown onstage is exceptional as the cast play several instruments whilst taking on a character and dancing around. Again, this just helps to emphasise the level of community which is spoken about in the show so often. It is a joy to watch.

Fisherman’s Friends is light-hearted and fun yet emotional at the same time. Taking a simple story of friendship, honesty and community and creating an original musical could end up being cheesy and cringe-worthy but this production is nothing of the sort. From the outstanding music to the witty one-liners, the emotional characters to the comradery seen onstage this tour will definitely put a smile on your face. Don’t miss your chance to head to Cornwall and be drawn in hook, line and sinker.

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is playing at the Marlowe Theatre until the 25th February. For tickets and information click here. It then continues the UK Tour until the 20th May 2023. For further information click here.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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