Fisherman’s Friends is based on the story of the real-life group of shanty singing lads from Cornwall and their newfound fame after playing at Glastonbury and captivating a talent-manager’s attention. Upon its arrival at Salford, I was given the opportunity to interview Parisa Shahmir, who plays Alwyn, the daughter of one of the titular fishermen.
The real band consists of Jeremy Brown, Jon Cleave, John Lethbridge, John McDonnell, Jason Nicholas and Toby Lobb (as well as previous members), all working men in Port Isaac (Cornwall) who came together in their love of music to share their passions with their community, and eventually the rest of the world.
Born in Manchester and later moving to Scotland and London, Parisa had “sung her whole life” before enrolling into a stagecoach and drama school. She has featured in the musical Mamma Mia, her “first job out of drama school”, before performing in Last Ship (2018), which was also shown at The Lowry and showcased songs composed by Sting.
Parisa is also a songwriter and established her love of co-creating roles, and adding her own flavour to roles, by “creating something from scratch”.
She spoke ardently about her role in Fisherman’s Friends, describing how it has taken “a huge part of my heart”, from the “feel-good” music to the “amazing scriptwriter… and dialect coach”, a set like a “brilliant playground”, and her character being one she and others really “resonate with a lot”.
Whilst her role is “more fictionalised”, she maintained that there is still pressure to correctly reflect the real story and “do it justice”.
The show seems to place focus on authentic cultural music over glitz but maintaining the feel-good experience of musicals. It brings back older genres of music and introduces it to new generations of viewers, ensuring that not only the heart-felt story and friendship of the Fisherman’s Friends is brought to light, but also their musical traditions, which are slowly fading from the public eye.
Additionally, she highlighted how the musical captures the feeling of community and folk music, involving the audience in this world by including an “onstage band where music is played live by real folk musicians” that recreate the “soul” of the musical genre. If you are still unsure about the focus on sea-shanties and traditional working songs, then just give this sneak peak of the beautifully sung, feel-good family fun a watch.
When asked to summarise the show, Parisa emphasised how the show “takes you on a journey. There’s some highs and some lows… It is uplifting. It is joyous. We put that across to the audience, and that’s what the audience feel” by the show’s conclusion.
The record-breaking musical is finally docking at Salford Quays this week!
Fisherman’s Friends plays at The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) from September 27 to October 1 2022.
For a preview of Cornwall’s first reactions to the musical see the audience reaction below: