‘Puss in Boots’ was adapted from the original 1550 Italian story by Exeter resident Ben Crocker; Ben is a second-generation panto writer. This classic is now being presented by Garrick Theatre Club at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford.
This delightful fun and energy-packed, two-and-a-half-hour English-styled pantomime can be seen when the curtain rises at 8.00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 14th December.
The show has numerous ‘spot the reference’ items as the script alludes to various singers, books and musicals. The director started the game off with two hints in the show’s programme, but I revelled in finding a Danny Kaye ‘Court Jester’ scene, a well-known French musical, the huge David Rose orchestra hit that is still as popular today brought a gigantic laugh and a massive Max Bygraves children’s musical hit from 65 years ago.
The scene: The village of Much Rabbiting on the Swan. The Royal Palace.
The set: which was mainly the castle battlements was designed and constructed by Graeme Dick, Gary Green, Gary Wetherlilt. The wall hid two foldaway beds. The castle set was painted by Adrian Ashman, Gary Green and Jacinta Radbourne. Large flats on each side of the stage swung open to reveal a forest scene; the woodland artwork was by Ruth Gordon-Smith. Props queen Marion West did a great job.
The lighting and soundscape design and their operation were by Geoff Holt and Arund Pearce. The technicians were faced with creating day scenes, creepy night scenes and a few thunder and lightning scenes – most impressive.
This big show on a small stage was smoothly managed by Terry Brown.
When wandering through the forest, the stepson of the newly deceased miller, poor Jack (Roshni Kaila) meets a beautiful young woman. Unknown to him, she is Princess Esmerelda (Sophie Byrnes) daughter of Queen Wendy (Gavin Crane) and her husband King Wally (David Johnson) who struggles to get a word in. The Princess and Jack part company, both totally infatuated and madly in love.
The Royal Page, Bobby (Jenna McGougan-Shaw) announces that next day the Royals, who are near bankruptcy, will be visiting. Village lasses Babs (Katelyn Barr) and her friend Betty (Kamara Churchill) are excited by the visit but the girls are being pursued by the deceased miller’s sons, the calculating and greedy Jasper (Owain Bundock) and his dim but passionate brother Jethro (Matthew Roberts).
That evening a homeless bag lady Winifred (Jacinta Radbourne) sings for her supper.
The good Fairy Priscilla (Colleen Bradford) tries to help Jack by magicking the miller’s tatty old moggy (Isabel Lally-Barnard, Gypsy-Lee Wray) with a fairy touch the cat became a smartly dressed, suave feline (Neve Havercroft, understudied by Olivia Fellows). Meantime, the evil sister Fairy Pernicia (Fiona Forster) seems to be working for a familiar looking extortionist and conman, Grimgrab the Ogre (Caileb Hombergen-Crute).
The day’s entertainment starts with a pop quartet (Jenny Trestrail, David Seman, Alan Shaw, Kaleb Sands) dressed in black suits and crowned with mop haircuts, they too looked most familiar.
Will Jack get anything from his stepfather’s Will? Who will marry whom?
Chorus : Sarah-Jane Hombergen-Crute, Barbara Brown, Amy Lally, Jody Wray and Toby Crestani.
The musical director and keyboard player was Lyn Brown, who along with the musicians Terry Murphy – drums, Robert Usaraga – bass guitar, Miriam Elliott – woodwind captured the fun of the script and the varying keys. With a large cast a musical director’s job is difficult, but when so many of the performers are still in their mid-teens Lyn’s task was extra difficult. The soloists were all superb, giving everything to their performances. The result was wonderful, the cast were inspired, in unison and the singing delivered with gusto. Combined with Siobhán Vincent’s choreography (assisted by Colleen Bradford) the musical numbers were vibrant.
The dozens of colourful costumes came as a result of hours of hard work by Kelly Barnard, Colleen Bradford and Sarah-Jane Hombergen-Crute. Then the fun makeup by Ebony Lally helped in the magic.
Director Douglas Sutherland-Bruce was most ably assisted by Kerry Goode in giving us this most uplifting pantomime. It was packed with traditional fun and belly laughs. Gavin Crane was a wonderful panto Dame, capturing every facet of the character. Being known as a very competent serious actor, Fiona surprised many with her hilarious aggro-packed performance as the bad fairy.
MOST enjoyable, but this long run has almost sold out – be quick.