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PUSS IN BOOTS (article first published : 2003-11-2)

The long-established Court/Hyland/Stonier/Barclay-Whiffen/Campbell-Gillies adult pantomime team have been entertaning audiences with their productions for many years now. While many of Durban’s top performers have also appeared in these shows, these stalwarts have been involved since its inception.

It’s about 10 years on since the first show, Sinderella, opened in the Playhouse Cellar. It was a tough act to follow, as is always the case with any creative output that becomes extended through different reincarnations of the original formula. However, the standard has remained consistently good and in the last couple of years, the team has moved from the Playhouse to Lango’s Theatre in Durban North.

The latest offering is Puss in Boots. Peter Court directs Patrick Hyland’s clever text which contains some brilliant moments. In a marvellous costume that could grace the stage of the West End’s Cats, Peter Court plays Puss. Flamboyant and impressive as he always is in the grande dame pantomime roles but doing a lot of illogical posturing in this one, Anthony Stonier takes the character of Queen Lascivia.

Using her height to full advantage, Heather Barclay-Whiffen is the sex-crazed ogress Buttercup but also makes an appearance as a peasant woman. Karen Campbell-Gillies plays a role she does well, that of the dizzy blonde Princess Britney.

Completing the cast is Dean Roberts as the delightful and doddery King Wenceslas while good-looking newcomer Jonathan Didlick holds his own (no hidden text intended!) as Dick Whittington, the brunt of most of the sexual innuendos.

It’s a hardworking cast and the fun comes thick and fast. Sometimes too fast – Peter Court’s delivery was really in the racing lane! Barring two cast members, the diction of the company is not good. Some wonderful lines are inexcusably thrown away and the patter song of King Caractacus was almost unintelligible!

Anthony’s delivery is always excellent, audible and well-placed but it is Dean Roberts who walks off with the honours in this field. With a completely focused, vocally clear and credible characterisation, he was rock-solid and a joy to watch.

I enjoyed Anthony’s When You’re Good to Mama and his “fighting” interpretation of As Long as He Needs Me was hilarious. Heather and Dean’s duet It’s Never Too Late was an absolute delight and Karen and Jonathan gave a good rendering of Sex Bomb.

Greg King’s set is amusing and suitably whacky and Peter Court’s costumes are excellent – except for Buttercup’s “fat suit” which I really disliked. From the lighting point of view, there appears to be a dark patch stage left and the ambient mikes need to be boosted to help the dialogue sequences. The foyer is hung with cobwebby hessian wiith an armoured knight and a bunch of boots add to the atmosphere.

All in all, Puss in Boots provides nonsensical fun in true adult pantomime style and is a good choice for an outrageous and relaxing evening out.

Tickets R130: R65 for the show and R65 for the meal. Starters include Chicken Livers Peri Peri, Giant Black Mushroom or Thai Spicy Beef Salad. We chose the latter two and they were both very acceptable (see Linefish). On the main course, my Roast Beef was most enjoyable and the accompanying pumpkin was perfectly cooked. My other half opted for the Grilled Linefish which he pronounced delicious but while the sauce was hot (this would have improved the Mushroom dish), the plate was lukewarm and the fish itself was cold. Management did offer to bring him another one but he decided to stay with his original serving. Other options are Chicken Curry or Vegetable Lasagne. For dessert there’s Brandy Pudding or Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce.

Puss in Boots runs at Lango’s Theatre until December 31. Please be aware that the emphasis is on ADULT entertainment and explicit language could offend the sensitive. Booking is at the Lango’s on 031 563 7324 or Computicket. More information – especially about year-end functions and party bookings - on 031 563 7324. – Caroline Smart




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