The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See, Shaftesbury Arts Centre

21-O&P2 176ardBACK in 1972, Shaftesbury Arts Centre performed a version of Edward Lear’s famous nonsense poem, adapted for the stage by Sheila Ruskin and David Wood.

And in their audience were Sue and John Cadmore and their young son, who was delighted by the show.

So when Sue was invited to direct this year’s “Christmas” show, she turned her back on pantomime and dug out the script from 43 years ago. The result is the current show at the Bell Street theatre, with its centrally repositioned entrance.

In an effort to pantomimify the production, a cookery scene has been interpolated, and there is an attempt at an audience participation song by the colourful, energetic and very likeable Jumblies, but other than that it all stays pretty faithful to the 1871 original nonsense song.

The Shaftesbury production has some wonderful characterisations, notably by Robert Ralph as the ebullient Quangle Wangle, Richard Lloyd as the doleful Dong, Julia Kunze as the fragile Runcible Spoon, Anthony Atwood as the professor and of course Sam Skey and Katy Darragh in the title roles – he a nervy and musical owl and she an elegant feline.

19-O&P2 157ardJenny Tempier’s porcine ring-bearer, Jerome Swan’s extravagantly-pated Turkey and Philip Elsworth’s Plum Pudding Flea join Jennifer Trenchard’s Jumbly Girl leading the company.

There are many clever effects in this show, which opens with a black-light sequence and uses back projections, atmospheric lighting and two cleverly-designed houses to delight the audience.

It’s all about colour and movement, and the excellent cast were well served by Kim Pragnell’s vibrant costumes and John Cadmore’s sets.

The band is led by Tim Trenchard.

The Owl and the Pussycat continue their quest for a ring and someone to marry them until 31st January. Visit the Arts Centre website for more information.


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