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Former Birchwood duo's lead roles in Little Shop of Horrors

Shane Sykes as Seymour and Jess Daniel as Audrey in Dunmow Players Little Shop of Horrors
Shane Sykes as Seymour and Jess Daniel as Audrey in Dunmow Players Little Shop of Horrors

The Dunmow Players are staging their take on much-loved musical Little Shop of Horrors this week (Oct 23-27).

Iain Court - director of Little Shop of Horrors
Iain Court - director of Little Shop of Horrors

The production, directed by Iain Court, will be performed six times over five days. It follows the record-breaking success of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the company’s fastest-selling and NODA award-winning show.

Owing to this previous triumph, the Dunmow Players have added a matinee performance on the last day of the show, Saturday, October 27.

Shane Sykes and Jess Daniel have been cast as star-crossed lovers Seymour and Audrey. The duo have been close friends since they were at Birchwood High School together. “We were in the same form,” said Jess. “We were put next to each other in Year 7 and we’ve been friends ever since.”

Shane has been performing in shows for 20 years, but he joined the Dunmow Players only last year for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He has since been elected its chairman.

Little Shop of Horrors

Fuelled by love, gore and fertiliser, Little Shop of Horrors is a kooky and entertaining retro musical sci-fi spoof.

It is based on the 1960 black and white B-movie by Roger Corman, the American director nicknamed ‘the Pope of pop cinema’, which starred a young Jack Nicholson.

In 1982, the story was adapted for the stage by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who wrote the music, lyrics and script. Over the decades, it has become one of the most well-respected musicals of all time.

The show centres on Seymour, a down-and-out florist’s assistant who becomes an overnight sensation when he discovers a strange and interesting plant with a deadly craving.

He is secretly in love with his fellow shopworker, the ditsy and loveable Audrey, and names the plant Audrey Two (Twooey) in her honour.

Audrey Two has plans that are far greater than Seymour can imagine. It grows into a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed carnivore who offers fame and fortune in exchange for blood.

Jess is a fully-trained actress and used to perform regularly as part of Stortford’s gigging scene. Like Shane, she joined the Dunmow Players last year after seeing adverts for Priscilla auditions. In April, she was elected as the group’s vice chair.

Jess, formerly Jess Webb, works at Urban Spa in Devoils Lane in Stortford. She married husband Joe on May 19 – the same day as the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The couple, who moved from Stortford to Flitch Green 18 months ago, are expecting their first child, a daughter, in March.

Two actresses are taking on the role of man-eating plant Audrey II: former Herts and Essex High School girl Aylin Cetinkaya is the voice while Marenka Dynia is the puppeteer.

Marenka has one of the most challenging roles in the entire production; for the performance, she will be sitting inside a giant puppet that looks like a giant Venus flytrap and will be blind to her surroundings.

Not only will she have to move the puppet’s mouth in perfect synchronisation to Aylin’s speech and singing, she will also have to react to the other characters without being able to see them.

Marenka and Aylin are close friends, which is why they were paired as Audrey II. They work together in Sainsbury’s at Thorley Park with another member of the cast, Chris Cray, who plays Mr Mushnik, owner of the flower shop where Audrey and Seymour work.

During show week – from Tuesday, October 23 until Saturday, October 27 – the Dunmow Players will be fundraising for Isabel Hospice.

“Aylin tragically lost her mum due to a long battle with cancer this year and Isabel Hospice nursed her during her last months,” explained Jess.

“Throughout the whole thing, Aylin was coming to rehearsals because it was an escape from her reality and Isabel also helped her feel able to do so.

“They’ve been a huge support to her family too and we just wanted to give back. It felt like a lovely way to honour her mum as she wasn’t able to see Aylin perform last year with her first Dunmow Players show.”

* The show is being performed at Foakes Hall in Great Dunmow. Curtain-up 7.30pm each evening with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets cost £17.50. For further details, visit www.dunmowplayers.co.uk

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