Panto Review: Puss in Boots at Chipping Norton Theatre

Here's Nick Le Mesurier review of Puss in Boots at Chipping Norton Theatre.

Monday, 18th November 2019, 4:54 pm
Updated Monday, 18th November 2019, 4:55 pm
Puss in Boots at Chipping Norton Theatre

Puss in Boots

By Toby Hulse

Dir John Terry

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Puss in Boots at Chipping Norton Theatre

The Theatre Chipping Norton

01608 642350

Until January 12 2020

Puss in Boots at Chipping Norton Theatre

Chippy’s pantomime is one of the great institutions of the theatrical calendar. Spanning around ninety performances over two months it must be the hardest working panto on the planet. And one of the best. It has built up a reputation for top quality showmanship, gorgeous sets, and sheer over-the-toppery fun. Waiting for a Chippy Panto is a bit like waiting for Santa Claus – you sort of know what’s coming but you wait in blissful anticipation nevertheless.

This year it’s Puss in Boots. We’re in 1950s London, a place ruled by gangsters and the ancestors of the folk in Albert Square – only here it’s Albert Square Square, named in honour of Tiffany Treacle’s dad, Albert Square. Tiffany (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) is the love interest of hapless Archie Buckle (Nick Pack), shoe seller on the Square who wants to tell her how much he loves her but can’t find a rhyme to do it with. Cue audience in this frolicsome festival of audience participation.

The Puss in question is Jack the Cat (Anna Tolputt), honest criminal, a mastermind of daring deeds, a clever nod-and-a-wink character who develops a masterly plan to outwit King Rat (Rowan Talbot), who is as wicked a wicked rat as ever graced a London street. He and his gang of nibbly numpties aim to take over the city and raise the dear old Square to the ground.

The thing is, he’s in cahoots with Pat M’Bloomers (Ian Crowe), who is Tiffany’s mum and our glorious pantomime dame, a sort of cross between Peggy Mitchell and RuPaul, with a touch of Elvis thrown in for good measure. She owns the Marquis of Carabas pub, where Ratty and Co have their secret hideout. Will Puss and his crew manage to get inside the den? Will they stop him in time? Will Archie finally buckle up and find the courage to propose to Tiffany? With the lovely Fairy Bowbells (Jessica Brady) on hand to bring a sprinkle of fairy dust, what can possibly go wrong?

Puss in Boots at Chipping Norton Theatre

Puss in Boots might not be quite as flamboyant as last year’s Aladdin, but it has a lingering effect that goes a bit beyond the glitter and the jokes. There are some clever scenes, such as a frantic car chase set to a vintage film background, and a beautiful set that incorporates the Square Square, the pub and the Bank of England, no less. Add to that the wonderful incorporation of the Pippins, Chipping Norton Theatre’s own cast of local children who perform every bit as smoothly as their professional counterparts on stage. The two young actors who served as Ratty’s sidekicks on the night I was there (November 15) deserve credit for their impeccable comic timing and characterisation.