Panto Purrfection!

Panto Purrfection!

Looking for a family adventure this winter? Head over to The Lyric at Gold Reef City for some swashbuckling fun with Puss in Boots. By Rebekah Kendal

Everybody loves cats. Need proof? Check the internet. There is – and I am tempted to use the word ‘literally’ here – a cat meme for everything. Cats contemplating life. Cats relaxing in odd places. Cats acting out Star Wars. Cats in cute shoes. Hang on, that one may predate the internet…

Back in the 16th century, an Italian chap called Giovanni Francesco Straparola penned a tale about a sartorially-savvy feline who uses his smarts – some may call it trickery – to gain power, wealth, and a princess bride for his penniless master. At the close of the 17th century, the tale was given some French flair by retired civil servant Charles Perrault, and it has stuck around in some form or another since then.

In the story of Puss in Boots, the youngest son of a miller is disappointed when all he inherits from his father is the family cat. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is no ordinary cat. The cunning kitty – who has a penchant for fancy footwear – hatches an elaborate plot to pass off his new master as the wealthy Marquis of Carabas so he might marry a princess and become legitimately wealthy.

Not surprisingly, the tale of this naughty cat has become a firm favourite with the pantomime crowd. In 2015, the KwaZulu-Natal- based KickstArt Productions added Puss in Boots to its impressive repertoire of pantomimes. KickstArt, which was founded in 2000 by Greg King, has also produced several award-winning musicals, including Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Cabaret and Shrek The Musical (which racked up 10 Naledi Theatre Awards nominations and was successfully staged at the Lyric Theatre at Gold reef City).

This year, KickstArt will be taking its production of Puss in Boots to The Lyric. Although pantomimes are traditionally performed over the festive season, the mid-year staging in Joburg makes it possible for director Steven Stead to give the show his full attention.

‘The show played to capacity houses for five weeks in 2015, and won awards for Best Children’s Theatre Production, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress,’ says Stead. ‘Besides some new songs and a mostly new, all-star Joburg cast, the production is exactly the same as it was in 2015.’ Stead, who also wrote the play, has given the original tale a bit of a twist by setting the action on a Caribbean island, and making the feline hero Spanish instead of French. He explains: ‘I’ve introduced the character of a good fairy, Calypso Honeybunch, who guides our rather maladroit hero, Tom Marzipan, on his way. I’ve also created a sassy female cat character, Selina Swiftclaw, a trained assassin who ends up falling for Puss and being his partner.’

‘The magical elements in the show are really exciting, with a wicked goblin wizard transforming into an ogre and then into a lion and a mouse!’

The various colourful sets (expertly designed by Greg King) whisk the audience away to a flower-drenched island paradise, a sumptuous royal palace, a magical fairy grotto and a wizard’s strange laboratory.

‘The costumes are bold and colourful, and the sets are equally impressive. The magical elements in the show are really exciting, with a wicked shape-shifting goblin wizard transforming into an ogre before our eyes, and then into a lion and a mouse!’

As is often the case with pantomime, the production (which includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and topical humour) will appeal to both children and their parents.

‘Like any of the successful Pixar and Disney movies aimed at young audiences today, pantomime definitely works on several levels, and is guaranteed to appeal to adults as much as the kids. There will always be jokes and innuendos that the adults will pick up while the kids are mesmerised by the colour and movement.’

And, if bright sets and foreign accents aren’t enough to transport you to an island paradise (and who doesn’t need that in the middle of winter?), the score should do the trick. Peppered with some of your favourite Latino hits from the past two decades, Puss in Boots will soon have you ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’.

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Photography: Courtesy Images

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