Flowers For Mrs Harris – Chichester Festival Theatre until 29th September

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Team Review by Sarah Miatt

As a big Angela Lansbury fan, I was familiar with the film Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris. I had no idea that it was originally a book by Paul Gallico and it appears that the musical, Flowers for Mrs Harris is a lot more faithful to the book than the film was. The story of a post war charwoman from Battersea who wants a Dior dress could be in danger of becoming incredibly saccharine and sweet. However, the brilliance of the script and score by Rachel Wagstaff and Richard Taylor ensured that this didn’t happen.

Harris

FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS Photos by Johan Persson

Its clever but very sparse set is used to great effect and the travelling circle on the stage, so pivotal to the story and the way it moved. Very recognisable sights of the Battersea power station in the distance in act one really set the scene and the change to Paris in all its glory in act two is beautiful. I have a lot of respect for actors who are already onstage when the audience come in so they can set the scene. It sometimes requires an extra half hour of acting in silence but in this show it was so worth it to see Mrs Harris making tea and arranging her flowers while her husband read the paper.

There are so many talented performers in this show all of them perfectly cast and completely in character. Apart from Mrs Harris, they all play at least two roles and performed them all with ease. Particular mentions however must go to West End veteran Joanna Riding as Lady Dant and Madame Colbert whose stunning voice showed what a talent she is in all of the songs and playing both roles really allows her to display a range of emotions to perfection. Laura Pitt-Pulford is also admirable as both bratty and childish wannabe actress, Pamela in London and kind-hearted, beautiful model, Natasha in Paris.

FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS Photos by Johan Persson

This show is all about friendship and I can’t go without mentioning Claire Machin as Mrs Harris’ best friend and neighbour, Violet Butterfield. The relationship between the two women is beautiful to watch and very natural. She holds a lot of the comic lines in the show, which she delivered with perfect timing.

Finally Mrs Ada Harris herself, Claire Burt. She is perfectly suited to the role and carries the show with ease. Rarely off stage, she portrays the many emotions of this complex character beautifully and we are really invested in her journey both literally and figuratively.

This is one of the most heartwarming shows I have ever seen and a return to the great British musical. The audible gasps, from the audience, at certain parts a testament to both the writing and performances. It’s a huge emotional journey from beginning to end and I have to admit to shedding more than one tear.

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