Theatre review:  Puss in Boots, Drayton Arms (upstairs)

Take a traditional family panto, add a healthy dash of filth, innuendo and satire for a hilarious anecdote to the lunacy of 2016.

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Even in the world of dwarves, fairy godmothers and Colgate-smile princes, Puss in Boots is a bonkers tale of a walking, talking, quick-thinking cat who, through cunning, deceit and daring, blags himself and his master a life of luxury.

Fat Rascal Theatre takes this traditional panto and gives it a contemporary kicking with an all-female cast that side-eyes 2016 with innuendo-peppered original songs, plot twists and  political satire.

The third born son of a lowly born family, Colin, is left nothing but a cat in his father’s will. But the cat gives Colin more than he’s bargained for as his feline friend sets out to sort out his daft master’s life, rid the land of evil and help Colin marry the beautiful (but, seemingly vacant) princess Fififi.

This is no ordinary festive fairy tale – Puss (Rosie Raven) is a DM wearing, rolly-smoking badass, the insipid princess turns out to be a feisty feminist while Colin is not the handsome would-be-prince, but a drippy loser who couldn’t win the hand of a clock let alone a beautiful princess.

The actors play several parts with an ease that in some cases is so good my plus one thought they were two different people (Phoebe Batteson-Brown’s transformation from drippy Princess Fififi to Colin’s brother is particularly effective).

Best of all, is Katie Wells’ punchy performance as evil King George with his references to building a wall around his kingdom, tweeting (using a model bird as a prop) every ridiculous thought and fancying one’s own daughter, we all know where the inspiration for this fairy tale badie came from (#trump).

Robyn Grant as the narrator and Queen is in spectacular voice,  and Allie Munro as poor Colin is a sympathetic lead with an excellent line is funny faces.

The audience don’t get a free pass with this panto; there’s the usual “he’s behind you” and “oh no he didn’t” call and responses that are weaved into the narrative with ease. The experience was even more immersive for a couple of audience members who were pulled on stage for dancing and stripping (sort of).

But even for those of us who escaped that fate, it was still impossible not to be sucked into this colourful, crazy, cat-centric world.

Puss in Boots | Drayton Arms | Until 7 January 2017

Theatre Review: Buzz – A New Musical

Funny, rude and sassy, Buzz: A Musical hits all the right spots.

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Fat Rascal’s Buzz A New Musical: the story of the vibrator told with wit and plenty of cheek.

Well, that was fun. After a tough couple of weeks, a musical about the history of the vibrator turned out to be a magic bullet of cheer.

Or perhaps that shouldn’t be too surprising. Since the dawn of man, women have been looking for ways to satisfy themselves without having to rely on them mainly because – as we learn – throughout the centuries, men have been too busy hunting, fighting Gauls or running away from the C word (commitment). And for much of history, female sexuality wasn’t even acknowledged by mansplainers who, well into the 20th century, continued to ignore or suppress the notion that women actually enjoy sex.

This romp through the blossoming of women’s self-satisfying desires and the machine that helped it along centres around twenty-something Angie whose vain, skinny-jeaned boyfriend of three years has just dumped her over garlic bread at Pizza Express.  The ex, Mark, is the most recent embodiment of man as represented in Buzz – a hipster in a failing band, he finishes with dependable Angie for big boobed groupies and O2 sized dreams.

Devastated, Angie wallows in her penguin PJs until her best friend suggests she looks elsewhere for some satisfaction – and this pick-me-up won’t sit around in his pants all day playing computer games.

Enter the vibrator as Angie and the audience get an all-singing, all-dancing history lesson through female sexuality as she learns how to fall back in love with herself.

Cleopatra burst through a wardrobe taking us back to 50 BC where she hollowed out a fruit stone and filled it with buzzing bees who kept her amused in Mark Antony’s long absences in the Roman army. We witness the Victorian doctors who eased hysteria with dexterous figures and see the prehistoric phallic shaped objects that shocked archeologists failed to catalogue.

The musical numbers aren’t quite Les Miserables in terms of orchestration and composition (although I think this really has the potential to work on a bigger scale – the West End could do with a dose of shock and awe), but the lyrics are witty and brimming with filthy smarts. You’ll be singing the words to the finale as you head to Gloucester Road – possibly to the embarrassment of your fellow tube passengers.

Among the (many) laughs is a very real point about women reclaiming their bodies and understanding them better. More educated than ever – and more liberated than ever –  women are still largely ignorant of their bodies and in the light of the recent Ched Evans case it’s apparent society still punishes women who enjoy sex.

And Buzz is singing from the rooftops that we should no longer be ashamed.

Buzz: A Musical | Drayton Arms SW5 | Runs Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 8pm until Saturday 29 October 2016