Culture Writer Jasmine Sandhar finds The Little Shop of Horrors to be an amazing showing of the classic whilst also inhibiting the outstanding atmosphere of an outdoor cinema

3rd year English and History student

Running since 2006, the Flatpack Festival is an integral part of Birmingham’s arts and culture scene. Having grown up in the city, the week of film-related festivities is something I look forward to annually, and I attempt to make it to at least one of the numerous events they have on offer. This year, I had the pleasure of spending a lovely evening watching an outdoor screening of Little Shop of Horrors (1986) in the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

Known for being ‘the green heart of Birmingham’, the Botanical Gardens is an aesthetic natural space of 15 acres that houses over 7000 plants and a bird collection. With doors opening two hours before the film was set to play, ticketholders had plenty of time to roam around the flora and fauna at their leisure. My guest and I wandered through the elegant Victorian glasshouses in awe, taking in a variety of pretty sights and fragrant scents that we had never experienced before. Poring over the accompanying placards, we also learnt a lot of interesting facts about the vegetation on show, such as the historical use of Spanish moss to stuff voodoo dolls. Our favourite part of it all was the decorative centrepiece pond, which accommodated some of the largest koi fish we had ever seen swimming in its depths.

I had the pleasure of spending a lovely evening watching an outdoor screening of Little Shop of Horrors (1986) in the beautiful Botanical Gardens

However, the most relevant exhibition was obviously the one that featured an array of carnivorous plants, ranging from venus fly traps to pitchers. Foreshadowing the arrival of Audrey II, this collection in residence was the perfect precursory setting for what was about to ensue. For those who are unaware of the plot of Little Shop of Horrors, the classic American musical horror follows the life of a nerdy florist named Seymour (Rick Moranis), who is forced to navigate the pitfalls of fame and fortune after nurturing a man-eating plant. Filled with snippets of comedy, such as a scene with the villainous dentist Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin) and the masochistic patient Arthur Denton (Bill Murray), the movie is a hilarious watch that even gives timeless pieces like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) a run for their money.

Indeed, it was delightful to hear the raucous laughs of audience members at these moments. I am not so sure about how much I enjoyed the somewhat questionable renditions of the musical numbers that certain onlookers attempted to sing, but it was nice to see the enthusiasm nonetheless. It was a shame that this energy was not present during the Midnight City Soul Band’s live performance, during which the musicians endeavoured to encourage audience participation in their cover of Billy Stewart’s ‘I Do Love You’. Despite the poor results, the band sounded absolutely fantastic and provided a relaxing atmosphere for the screening to inhabit.

Indeed, it was delightful to hear the raucous laughs of audience members at these moments

Outdoor cinemas have always been a favourite pastime of mine and this one did not disappoint. The blow-up screen was of a suitable size so that it could be seen from all angles and the audio from the speakers was loud enough for us to hear right from the back. As the darkness began to descend, the screen got brighter and surrounded by such luscious scenery, it quickly became a magical night. The only slight mishap was the appearance of some drizzle, which caused umbrellas to pop up and slightly obscure our view, but luckily this lasted for a very short period of time.

The entire event was clearly well-planned out by the Flatpack team, who were brilliant upon our arrival and departure. The sea of picnic mats and camping chairs across the grassy expanse was wonderful to be a part of, but I did notice that accessibility had been accounted for with an exclusively marked-out area for those who required it. Allowing people to bring in their own food and drink was the right call, and the alternative option of street food from vendors was an extra bonus. Although we stuck to our store-bought charcuterie board of snacks, the smell of Mexican spices was very tempting.

My only wish is that similar screenings happen in the summer, when the weather is even better for it. For example, watching The Breakfast Club on the outdoor rooftop of the main library or The Lord of the Rings trilogy in Moseley Bog would be an absolute treat. Nevertheless, in the meantime, there are plenty of other exciting opportunities to immerse oneself in the world of film through the Flatpack Festival. I, for one, will be exploring as many more of these as I can after having such an enjoyable evening yesterday.

Rating: 4/5

The Flatpack Festival runs until Sunday 21st May 2023 and a full list of upcoming events can be found here.

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