Review: Fishermans Friends The Musical at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Fishermans Friends The Musical at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review by Robyn McGough

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical tells the story of the world’s most unlikely buoy band!

Based on the true story of the chart-topping Cornish singing sensations and their hit 2019 movie, Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is a feel-good voyage about friendship, community and music which smashed box office records in Cornwall.

When a group of Cornish fishermen came together to sing the traditional working songs they’d sung for generations, nobody, least of all the fishermen, expected the story to end on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.  They are spotted by a fish-out-of-water music manager on a trip from London, who must learn that there is more to life than selling your sole for fifteen minutes of fame.

A star cast includes James Gaddas, (Coronation Street, Billy Elliot the Musical), Parisa Shahmir (Mamma Mia!), Robert Duncan (Drop the Dead Donkey), Anton Stephans (The X Factor) and Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet of Barbed Wire).

So climb aboard, find your sea legs and allow yourself to fall for this critically acclaimed musical – hook, line and sinker!

When I tell you me and my family were beyond excited about this coming to theatres I mean it! We adored the original movie which was released in 2019 and the most recent sequel in 2022 – a real feel good vibe with that true British feel. The wholesome love of a community of people coming together. The show had that exact same feeling.

As we entered the classically beautiful Theatre Royal we were greeted with a wonderful stand filled with brilliant fishy merchandise. Fish pens, tote bags and bottle openers among just a few of the goodies on offer!

Then we were able to take our seats and inside the theatre there was a quiet buzz amongst the busy audience with a relaxing atmosphere. The waves were crashing and the seagulls chirping from the moment we took our seats in the grand hall of the Theatre Royal – I felt truly transported to the seashore of St. Ives. A great use of sound effects from the moment you entered – this was only the beginning of our amazing experience. 

As the curtains opened we were greeted with the large boat and the blue gauze cloth. The friends were on the boat chanting their sea shanties which were used to build a steady rhythm to ensure the sailors could execute their tasks with precision and that they were pushing or pulling at the same time.

These traditions have carried on throughout the years filled with humour and tongue in cheek lyrics. The gauze was used effectively to make it look like the sailors were at sea and the large boat prop was effective and certainly looked real. The movement on the boat looked incredibly effective- I really believed they were on a real boat on that stormy day!

The staging itself was simple yet incredibly effective. They used the simple stage props to create different settings with great ease. A well-rehearsed changing of scenes is not easy to do and it was slick, also fitting in with some of their songs at times too.

It was very clever work with great stage imagination and direction! I loved the use of the two levels of the stage and the top deck really transported me to Cornwall with all of the décor. I also loved the girls adding the simple decorations of the flags to show us the different traditions within the village.

I left feeling very involved in their way of life and would now like a trip to Cornwall to find the Golden Lion and the shanty singers! The use of the stairs was carried out well to create different layers and heights to the production too which I really appreciated. I was also impressed with how quickly they maneuvered their way up and down them… I would have definitely broken a limb!

What truly took my breath away though was the singing. Just wow. So many powerful songs were used singing the shanties on the sea and shore. I was surprised with just how many songs I recognised and have found myself singing them all morning!

Some of these songs included John Kanaka, leave her Jonny, leave her, South Australia and pay me my money down just to name a few.

The acapella section in Act One was exceptional however. There were strong vocals provided by all of the cast – the perfect blend of tenor and basses created an electric sound. You could have heard a pin drop as they were singing, as everyone was just so in awe of the beauty of the strong rhythms and fun lyrics. 

The use of dynamics throughout was also seamless, using the power of their voices throughout to portray different emotions. Particularly during one of the final scenes (no spoilers here but take some tissues…) as something incredibly sad happens. 

My favourite song throughout has to be Village by the Sea performed exquisitely by Parisa Shahmir – Olwyn. It was spellbinding listening to her voice – I could have listened to her on repeat. 

The band on stage was also such a nice touch. I know a lot of shows have started to do this but the band in this were triple threats – playing, singing and even dancing – tap dancing on a table whilst playing the fiddle and singing has to be a truly special talent!

There was a great mix of instruments on stage too building a beautiful sound. Really unique – I don’t think I have seen anything quite like it on stage before!

The storyline throughout this is obviously fantastic as it is taken straight from the brilliant movie. They stayed true to the story and this was nice to see. I loved the on-stage relationships and it did feel like they were all one big family. My favourite relationship of all was between Grandad Jago played by Robert Duncan and Grandma Maggie played by Susan Penhaligon. It gave me all the warm feelings and they played opposite each other like they had been their whole lives. 

I truly fell in love with this musical and had the most wonderful evening. Endearing and beautifully written with great emotional depth and characterisatons. I cannot advise this musical more and I truly hope it goes on to have a long, successful run. 

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tue 11 – Sat 15 Oct 2022. Tickets are priced from £15.00 and can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

​Check out the tour dates for any more performances around the U.K –

Check out the trailer for Fisherman’s Friends the musical here:

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