EIFF preview: Live Live Cinema opens up Little Shop of Horrors

EIFF preview: Live Live Cinema opens up Little Shop of Horrors

Credit: Gareth van Niekerk

Roger Corman's classic is brought to madcap life at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Shot for $30,000 in two days on a set leftover from another film and featuring a talking plant, Roger Corman's 1960 horror comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, has always been unique. Its cult following has slowly morphed into an Off Broadway musical, a 1986 remake and a further Broadway revival. Now it's getting the live cinema treatment at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, courtesy of New Zealand outfit Live Live Cinema.

As high-octane cinematic experiences go, there's nothing quite like a film with four artists providing voice, music and sound effects live on stage. Having tackled Carnival of Souls and Dementia 13 with larger ensembles, director Leon Radojkovic explains why LSOH was perfect for something altogether more dangerous.

What was the inspiration for Live Live Cinema?
The main inspiration actually came from the fairly common format, particularly within film festivals, of a musical ensemble performing a new score to an old silent film. Live Live Cinema pushes this basic concept much further however, by working with films from the sound era. So not only do we have a band performing new music, we have actors performing all the dialogue, and a madcap Foley artist working furiously to produce the sound of everything from the clinking of cutlery to an axe to the head. This immediately introduces all sorts of new layers and complexity, and also allows us to really interact with the film and reshape it quite significantly, simply with the power of audio.

The EIFF programme describes Little Shop of Horrors as 'Corman at his most bizarre'. Why did you choose this film?
Where Dementia 13 and Carnival of Souls both trade on atmosphere and tension, which can really be exploited by a large ensemble of performers aiming to produce an all-encompassing, thrilling live cinema experience, LSOH is much more dialogue and character driven. It's talky and fast-paced, which makes it a perfect fit for a much smaller ensemble of just four actor-musicians being forced to work like maniacs to essentially all fulfil three separate roles simultaneously.

What was the motivation to go smaller?
There were two reasons really, the first was we wanted to create a show where we amped up the danger. We wanted to create something that was impossible, that had the audience on the edge of their seat and pushed our performers to their breaking point. Four performers trying to do all the music, dialogue and sound effects is ridiculously difficult and that makes for exciting, dangerous theatre. The other, if we are to be honest, is financial. We want people to see our work and four people and two suitcases is way easier to tour than 17 people and a container of stuff.

How were the cast brought together?
We needed performers who were both funny, skilful character actors and musical chameleons – we needed very clever humans. We were all fans of Hayley Sproull and thought she would be a superb Audrey, which she is. Oliver and I had both just worked with Laughton Kora on Jesus Christ Superstar and we loved his energy and on-stage personality. Byron is a comedic genius and Barnie is one of my favourite performers. Ultimately these four shone in the auditions. We wanted a cast of naughty clowns, each with a different personality and style. We honestly couldn't be happier with them, they are all astonishing.

How big a challenge has it been?
The biggest challenge is that it is simply impossible, but that's what makes it such an exciting performance to watch – you know they must at times fail, they will, they do. It's hilarious when it happens. Our first two productions were beautiful presentations of classic cinema; LSOH is a chaotic trip; mad, funny, insane.

Live Live Cinema, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 24 Jun, part of Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

The oldest continually running film festival in the world, the EIFF draws on its prestige to consistently present abundant programmes of new features, documentaries, retrospectives, shorts, panel discussions and educational workshops, with a few high profile premieres thrown in for good measure.