Reviewed by Cath Joyce
Last night we went to the opening night of Fisherman’s Friends – The Musical at The Lowry Theatre in Salford. As we walked into the theatre you could hear the sound of seagulls, instantly transporting the audience to the seaside and setting the theme for the night. As the curtain rose, we heard the shipping forecast and our first glimpse of the stage was the fisherman returning to port in their boat, which was being blown about on a choppy sea.
Inspired by a true story, Fisherman’s Friends was initially a film and is now a stage show which started touring the UK in September. The story follows a group of Cornish fishermen, led by father and son Jago (Robert Duncan) and Jim (Hadrian Delacey), who every Friday night sing sea shanties on the quayside, keeping Cornish history alive whilst also raising a little money for local charities. One night they are discovered by Londoner Danny, played by Jason Langley, a former A&R man for Island Records who was visiting Port Isaac for a stag night. With his record company background, he instantly spots the group’s potential and tries to persuade the fishermen to make a recording, confident that they’ll be a hit.
As the story unfolds we’re treated to a stream of different songs, mostly traditional shanties such as “John Kanaka”, Pay Me My Money Down” and “Drunken Sailor” which are sung by the fishermen. In contrast to the male harmonies, the beautiful voice of Jim’s daughter Alwyn, played by Parisa Shamir really stood out. Her first number, “Village by the Sea”, was perfect and her duet of Sloop John B with Danny sent goosebumps down my spine!
The set was very impressive, the large stage of the Lyric Theatre was transformed into the quayside of the small Cornish village of Port Isaac, and easily transformed into the bar of the local pub, or the deck of Jim’s fishing boat. Lighting and smoke effects added to the atmosphere and sound effects were in constant use.
Rather than having a separate orchestra, the band members were part of the cast, playing their instruments and taking part in the story. They add a great community feel to the pub scenes with the usual guitars and drums joined by more traditional instruments such as a violin, accordion, concertina and a recorder.
The play is a tale of an isolated Cornish community as much as a story about the music business. Life is centred around the local pub and when facing the daily dangers of a life at sea the support of friends and community is all important when times are hard. This is a real “feel good” musical about friendship and community and has plenty of music and a little bit of love too. The performance was so good that it was more of a concert with a story than a story set to music.
Finally, a well done to all the cast whose Cornish accents didn’t falter at all through the night!
This is a fantastic show and I certainly recommend going to see it!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Fisherman’s Friends is at the Lowry Theatre, Salford until Saturday 1st October for more information or to book tickets visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/fishermans-friends-the-musical/ or call the box office on 0343 208 6000
Tickets cost from £19 plus a £3 transaction fee
The Lowry, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ