Fisherman’s Friends The Musical

Fisherman’s Friends is the musical about the most unlikely of topics, a group of men from Cornwall singing Sea Shanties! The show is set in a small Cornish village where community is the priority and outsiders are treated with distain. This all changes when Danny arrives, determined to get back into A&R he convinces the small group of singers that they would make it big and to trust him in helping them secure a record contract. Along the way the audience meets the likes of Alwyn and her father Jim whose mother/wife walked out on them, Jago who at the cusp of enjoying his retirement and Rowan and his wife who are struggling to keep their heads above water running the local pub.

The book itself is by Amanda Whittington and is based on a true story. The book really succeeds in getting across the sense of community that the show revolves around however there are moments where the book is maybe a bit too simplistic in terms of character development and story arc. Despite the possible over simplification of the characters or the story had many ups and downs, with moments of joy and humour which contrasted well with the more emotional moments.

The book is also very clever in creating the setting, for a Londoner like me I immediately brought into the Cornish setting and my Cornish guest felt equally at home, explaining local detail to me that may have gone over my head.

The music itself is predominantly originates from traditional Cornish folk music and soaring harmonies and seemingly effortless performance of these add to the success of its delivery. There were a couple of the songs that were familiar to me but it was enjoyable to let the lilting music wash over me and during some of the rousing songs I had to do everything in my power not to stomp my foot along with the cast. The acappella moments where when the band really had a chance to shine, and combined with some new arrangements by David White I brought into the fact that the group could indeed make it big.

There were however moments however when I struggled to understand the reason for the next song, often they failed to drive the narrative or serve a purpose and more time was spent on these superfluous numbers than developing more in depth characters. The band also need commending as the music was played onstage by a variety of traditional and authentic instruments, often with the musicians involved in the scenes themselves.

The casting for this show was spot on and it was wonderful to see a genuine mix of ages on stage portraying the community. Parisa Shahmir played Alwyn and her vocals brought a haunting sound to many of the songs, with a voice that suited the style of music wonderfully. Her rendition of ‘The Tidal Pool’ was a particular highlight of the show. The men of Fisherman’s Friend are hard to single out as they spend such a large part of the show singing in harmony it really adds another layer to the community spirit that Jim preaches about throughout the show. Suffice to say however that each of them shone in their moments and managed to establish just how the fitted into the group.

The opening of the show and subsequent scenes on the boat were crafted very intelligently, with a simple use of ropes helping navigate the boat around the stage. This combined with a fitting lighting design by Johanna Town really helped these moments to have a wow factor. For the majority of the show however the set design by Lucy Osbourne was relatively static but this helped create a sense of place, with simple levels helping ensure that drawn out scene changes were not needed and that the pace was kept up.

Fisherman’s Friends is worth seeing for the music alone but enhanced with a heart warming (albeit slightly over simplistic) story about community and a cast that really do the music justice, this unique show is a gem of a find.

Fisherman’s Friends is on at New Wimbledon Theatre is on until 20th May at New Wimbledon Theatre. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of The King and I, Sister Act and The Commitments.

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