Review - Puss In Boots (Drayton Arms Theatre)

It's Christmastime! Tis the season for demolishing mince pies 24/7, last minute Christmas panic buying, and fraught family outings to the local theatre to take in a panto. Be it Cinderella, Mother Goose,  Aladdin or some other classic panto tale, there's no doubt that a family pantomime trip spent observing a sea of primary colour tights and dodging projectile Quality Streets for an hour or three is a pretty unmissable part of the holiday festivities. However, while the average pantomime may be touted as fun for all ages, for those who like their pantos with a little bit of extra filth, Rat Rascal Theatre's audacious adult take on Puss In Boots is the perfect solution. 

Just as any panto worth its salt features a couple of cheesy, jazz hand embellished musical numbers, Puss In Boots features a number of witty original songs, with hummable music and hilarious lyrics by James Ringer-Beck and Robyn Grant. 

Grant also narrates the piece, about a hapless young boy peasant named Colin who hears a mysterious voice urging him to put a pair of boots on his cat's feet in order to achieve greatness. Her bawdy yet affable narrator ensures that the audience is on board with the panto's crude comedy even before the show has begun, chatting to audience members and even making up impromptu ditties about some of them. A select number of audience members even find themselves inserted into the piece in some way or another, thanks to an improv game which is woven into the plot cleverly and involves a lot of audience participation. 

The cast as a whole are very likable, with each actor bringing energy and humour to a myriad of characters. Puss, the grungy titular anthropomorphic cat, is brought to life boisterously by Rosie Raven, while Allie Munro plays Puss' dopey owner Colin and Phoebe Batteson-Brown is delightful as Princess Fififi, a character who really comes into her own in act 2! 

Of course, all pantos need a good villain, and Fat Rascal Theatre's Puss In Boots has perhaps the most entertaining yet repulsive villain of all, the obnoxious King George. Father of Princess Fififi and master of James Ringer-Beck's long suffering squire Busby, King George is a detestable villain, who fills both the other characters and the audience with abhorrence. King George is a very blatant parody of one of 2016's most controversial figures. From the navy suit and red tie,  down to to an obsession with 'tweeting' (via a small toy bird), the parallels to Donald Trump are innumerable, and somewhat worryingly accurate. In fact, many of his jokes are comprised solely of actual Trump quotes, which naturally gives many punchlines an uneasy undertone. Nevertheless, the character is the source of many laughs and is played excellently by Katie Wells. 

The panto itself is totally uninhibited entertainment (a lot of mileage is gotten out of 'pussy' jokes!) but with a surprisingly sincere finale! Featuring many references to this year's most talked about topics, the script is full of razor sharp observational humour which results in a lot of shared laughs and knowing looks between audience members. 

A riotous laugh-a-minute adult panto, filled with clever twists and turns, brilliantly catchy songs and excellent comedic performances, Fat Rascal Theatre's Puss In Boots is unmissable Christmas entertainment!

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