THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: Flowers for Mrs Harris ★★★★★

Flowers for Mrs Harris
Chichester Festival Theatre
Saturday 8th - Saturday 29th September 2018 (Digital Streaming Online)

Following it’s 2016 run at the Sheffield Crucible, Flowers for Mrs Harris was a part of the 2018 Spring Season at The Chichester Festival Theatre, a musical that follows the life of Ada Harris (Clare Burt), a woman who believes she has everything she’s always wanted right at home, where she is comforted by chatting to her departed husband Albert (Mark Meadows) and natters with best friend Violet Butterfield (Claire Machin), until one day whilst covering for Violet at Lady Dant’s (Joanna Riding) establishment, stubbles across Ravishing, the title of the most beautiful dress that Ada has ever seen. Here begins a journey that takes her over two years to save up enough money from her clients, and be whisked away to Paris to buy her own Christian Dior dress in his newest collection, even if that means departing with the most sentimental item she has ever kept from her time with Albert.

Simply heartbreaking, Clare Burt puts in an astounding performance as Ada Harris, one that simply takes your breath with her in the role. As the second act opens in particular, Ada gets to witness the newest collection coming down the stairwell from a plethora of models, and the lyrics ‘This won’t happen again, Don’t miss one little thing’ is the perfect line for such a time, as we have been carried through on a path alongside Ada, and seen the struggles and sacrifices that she has had to make to be present in this moment. What Ada brings with her kindness and natural English ability to help others is shown so clearly through Burt’s drive to deliver a powerful aura, with every character she encounters believable and unique to her offerings for each, where she expects little in return. There’s a beautiful side plot with Bob (Louis Maskell) who is head over heels in love with Pamela (Laura Pitt-Pulford) that is only heightened through Ada’s mission to bring the two together, and that’s the sheer beauty of Rachel Wagstaff’s exquisite book. 

Richard Taylor’s Music and Lyrics seeps into the storyline so effortlessly that every lyric feels apt, from a sweet melody between Ada and Albert at the start of the show, to the climax of the first act as Ada steps onto the plane heading to Paris, to right through Act Two and finally to the ultimate rousing finale number, with thanks Lez Brotherston’s awe-inspiring set design, it brought tears to my eyes and lips trembling, as all the components of a tight team of creatives were exposed onto the stage with beautiful colours and radiant costumes, courtesy of Brotherston and Mark Henderson. The use of the outer ring revolve that operates through key stages, mainly through scene changes, only brings further clarity of a well-ironed machine backstage, with so much to contend with but completed so effortlessly.

Overall, Flowers for Mrs Harris is rich, beautiful, and breathtaking, but most of all quintessentially British. Clare Burt delivers a performance like nothing I’ve seen before on stage, and even through a digital screen I felt every word and emotion that she went through as Ada Harris. Simply put, if there is one production you have to witness during this Easter Weekend, or throughout the whole Lockdown in General, please do not kick yourself by just sitting back, and instead get whisked away with one of the most honest and life-affirming musicals of our time.
You can Stream Flowers for Mrs Harris Here.

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