Fisherman's Friends The Musical UK Tour - Theatre Royal Plymouth Review
Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Please note that the photographs included in this review are of the 2021 cast
After setting sail in its world premiere at The Hall For Cornwall last year, the musical adaptation of hit film Fisherman’s Friends (based on the film of the same name which is in turn based on the real-life story of Port Isaac’s famous shanty band) has returned to the stage, launching its hotly anticipated UK Tour at The Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Men of the sea, devoted to their work, their families, their friends and their village by the sea, Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends simply enjoyed singing sea shanties, the songs of their heritage, every Friday night for the villagers, and thought it would never be any more than that. But when a talent manager stumbled across them singing one night, he sets them down a path that they could never have imagined; one of fame and international acclaim.
With their story already adapted into a film in 2019, and a second film currently impressing in the cinema box office, the return of this musical was greeted by a packed house in Plymouth, with the real Fisherman’s Friends in attendance.
The show introduces us to the fisherman of Port Isaac, living simple lives, spending their days fishing and their nights in the pub, the hub of the village, where they would sing with their loved ones. From Robert Duncan’s family patriarch Jago and his serious work minded son Jim (James Gaddas), to new father Rowan (Dan Buckley) who is struggling to keep his inherited pub in business along their fellow fisherman, the ideas of family, work and community are strong within the village and they like things the way that they are. When Danny (Jason Langley), a music industry executive, visits the village and hears the group singing their much loved sea shanties, he wants more people to hear them and tries to convince them to make an album. And whilst most of the group are up for it, be that for the fun of it or, in Rowan’s case, the potential financial gain, Jim is harder to convince. Can he convince him and make the music of the group successful, all whilst trying to win over Jim’s feisty daughter Alwyn (Parisa Shahmir).
Each character has their own story to tell, with Duncan’s Jago seeing the chance to make an album as the perfect way to bid farewell to his seafaring days whilst his son sees it as perhaps a bit too much of a shift from their peaceful simple ways. Buckley’s Rowen is fun loving and cheerful for the most part, whilst fighting with his own struggles as he desperately tries to keep his family business afloat as his wife Sally (Hazel Monaghan) worries that they’ve taken on too much. Fisherman Leadville (Anton Stephans), Archie (Hadrian Delacey), Wiggy (Pete Gallagher), Ben (Dakota Starr), Yestin (Dominic Brewer) and Arthur (Martin Carroll) embrace the fun in the idea of making music professionally whilst trying to support their friends to the best of their abilities.
Jason Langley’s Danny is the down on his luck underdog, he’s been through a lot and finds himself completely out of his comfort zone as a city slicker suddenly thrown into village life. He has a determination and a drive that pushes him into wanting the make the most of everything no matter what with Langley having a natural chemistry with Shahmir’s Alwyn who, whilst trying to stop her grandmother Maggie (Susan Penhaligan) to boast of her granddaughter’s musical talents, is trying to find exactly where she fits in.
Featuring many sea shanties throughout, this musical is crammed full of ear worms including ‘John Kananka’ ‘Nelson’s Blood’, ‘Drunken Sailor’, ‘Little Liz (I Love You), ‘Sailor Ain’t A Sailor’, and yes, even ‘Wellerman’. The cast lift the rafters with their powerful vocals, accompanied by a talented band of musicians who doubled up as characters. Having the band moving around with the characters helped to create a real sense of community and everyone knowing everyone.
Some things have been changed and/or added since I saw the show in Truro last year, with a few additional songs slotted in, including a lovely song called 'The Tidal Pool' performed by Parisa Sharmir which adds a new depth to the character.
The set (by Lucy Osborne), consisting of three walls, a couple of ladders and a high walkway doubling up as Port Isaac’s sea wall, is extremely effective. Two sets of double doors hide the bar and a stage that doubles as a boat, being moved in and out throughout. When paired with Johanna Town’s lighting the set is effortlessly transformed from a quaint village to a dramatic fishing scene and even into a busy London bar.
Fisherman’s Friends The Musical is full of heart and soul, with some laugh out loud moments expertly mixed with emotion and family drama. The sea shanties are timeless both in their catchy tunes and their seafaring tales and the cast look like they are having the time of their lives, embracing the themes of family, community and sticking together. The audience were quick to leap to their feet at the end in rapturous applause and were delighted when the real Fisherman’s Friends took to the stage.
John McDonnell, Jeremy Brown, Toby Lobb, Billy Hawkins, Jon Cleave & Jason Nicholas
If you would like to catch this thoroughly entertaining show that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, you can book your tickets here https://fishermanonstage.com/tour-dates/