101 Dalmatians at Bristol Tobacco Factory

Tristan Sturrock as Pongo and Lucy Tuck as Perdita 2 Image Farrows CreativeTHERE’S something about the English and their dogs, and you couldn’t get more English than Mr and Mrs Dearly, human stars of the Tobacco Factory/Travelling Light production of 101 Dalmatians, on in Bristol until 11th January.

Dodie Smith’s immortal story has been brilliantly adapted for this exciting, heart-warming family show, performed by five actors and three acting musicians – and of course a large canine contingent.

Directed by the inspired Sally Cookson and devised by the company, the show has all the thrills, love, care, panic, passion and general hurly burly of the original story, packed into two hours of action, colour, music and fun.

It’s one of those shows that delights everyone in the audience, from the totally involved tinies in the front row to the fashionably arty coterie that increasingly inhabits Bristol’s theatre scene.

The familiar story starts as Pongo and Perdita meet in Regent’s Park, and their P-marked ball is politely disputed by a man and a woman, who discover that not only do they have spotted dogs in common, but a deep passion for numbers and higher maths. Marriage follows instantly, the dogs share a basket, and before long Perdita is craving gherkins and coal.Saikat Ahamed as Saul Baddun Image Farrows Creative

The very formal butler reads up on doggy delivery and reinvents himself as Nanny Butler … and all is spotty heaven.

Enter Cruella De Vil, a woman with an obsession for everything furry, and her very peculiar husband, and the smell of danger and death pervade the space.

Of course, the true baddies get their comeuppance, the robbers are wonderfully pantomimically dense, the dogs of the land are called into action and all is well by the final curtain.

Felix Hayes as Clarabel Image Farrows CreativeBut not before some delightfully comic scenes involving cows in a Christmas barn, under-the-nose thefts, motorcycle chases, a frantic pursuit of a train, and puppies – to the left of them, to the right of them and out of the valley of death (well, the Suffolk of death, actually).

Saikat Ahamed, Felix Hayes, Carla Mendonca, Tristan Sturrock and Lucy Tuck, with musicians Benji and Will Bower and Ian Ross, (with zoot suits to match their vintage microphones) not only play human roles but several of the dogs. Tristan and Lucy, as Mr and Mrs Dearly, also play Pongo and Perdita.

The whole cast has clearly studied dog behaviour intimately, and, as the proud owner of a new puppy, I can vouch for the authenticity of their portrayals.

This is a terrific show, and should be packing the Tobacco Factory with excited and eager children of all ages, really from toddler to octogenarian, over the Christmas period.


Photographs by Farrows Creative

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