Puss In Boots

Nov 24 2016 | By More

★★★★☆  Huge laughs

Saughtonhall United Reformed Church: Wed 23 – Sat 26 Nov 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Great fun is to be had at Saughtonhall Drama Group’s Puss In Boots, which gets the pantomime season off to a riotous start.

James Barry’s script is an off-the-shelf number, with a few local and topical references thrown in, and provides enough of a traditional experience to satisfy anyone.

Ruth Gray, David Hastie and John Webster. Photo: Sarah Howley

Ruth Gray, David Hastie and John Webster. Photo: Sarah Howley

The Puss of the title is the brainy sidekick of David Hastie’s glaikit miller’s son Harry. Harry is more of a Buttons-type audience identification figure than a romantic lead, and Hastie certainly plays up the audience interaction, exploiting every possibility for humour and throwing in a few of his own.

There is a beautifully natural feel to his performance, and a real rapport with the crowd. Having discovered that it is not necessary to be absolutely faithful to the script to get laughs, he needs to be sure he does not go overboard. The narrative boundaries of pantomime may be elastic, but they do exist, and there can be a point where freewheeling improvisation becomes self-indulgent.

This point has not yet been reached, however, and a kitchen scene with John Webster’s Nora the Cook is hysterically successful. This is classic panto, building up to a peak of hilarity and physical comedy that is truly memorable.

Webster’s dame is excellent throughout – pleasingly cynical, occasionally verging on the filthy but always judged to perfection. He is also extremely adept at working the audience, making fun without being nasty. The only person who could take offence is a certain recent cookery show winner, should she witness his brief yet uncanny impersonation.

considerable presence

There is a surprisingly small cast of principals, which gives even more responsibility to the comedy leads, and they prove more than equal to the task. It also means a large role for Ruth Gray (Harry’s crafty cat Felix) as a narrator and the only relatively sane character, which she discharges diligently and with considerable presence.

Rachel Hegarty and Scott Kerr. Photo Sarah Howley

Rachel Hegarty and Scott Kerr. Photo Sarah Howley

Scott Kerr’s King Eric is a relatively underplayed but effectively comic creation, while Murray Petrie’s Ogre is suitably horrible and also pitched just right. Rachel Hegarty visibly grows in confidence as Princess Lil, and her duet with Hastie on Can’t Help Falling In Love is as touching as a pantomime can get.

The music is successful overall, with the small chorus coming into their own on the singalongs, which make use of the hi-tech songsheets that are part of Liz Wison’s tremendous light and sound show. MD Morag Stevenson provides indefatigable accompaniment, which cannot always be easy when the cast often have their own ideas about key and tempo, and even whether these should remain consistent over the course of a song.

Such hiccups only add to the fun, and it is a testament to director Colin Mitchell that he has created a production robust enough to sustain the occasional journey off-piste. There is also a warm, inclusive feeling to the evening – and, best of all, it is very funny indeed.

Running time: 2 hours including one interval
Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, 87 Saughtonhall Drive, EH12 5TR
Wednesday 23 – Sat 26 November 2016
Wed – Fri at 7.30 pm; Sat 1.30 pm and 6.30 pm
Tickets: http://www.saughtonhall.com/page32.html
Company website: http://saughtonhall.com/dramagroup.html
Saughtonhall Drama Group facebook page: SaughtonhallDramaGroup


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