Feline fun at Bury's Theatre Royal

Puss in Boots, Theatre Royal, Bury St EdmundsAS pantomimes go Puss in Boots isn't what purists call a typical panto classic.Where other panto stories are blessed with an obvious supply of dames, unfortunate young lads, fairies and stooges, Puss in Boots appears to be missing a character or two.

Puss in Boots, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

AS pantomimes go Puss in Boots isn't what purists call a typical panto classic.

Where other panto stories are blessed with an obvious supply of dames, unfortunate young lads, fairies and stooges, Puss in Boots appears to be missing a character or two.

Not that those minor details have stopped the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds making a determined effort to put on an entertaining family show.


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To the production's credit, writer Daniel O'Brien managed to shoe-horn in a dame, merge the unfortunate young lad with the stooge but he did appear to be hoping nobody would notice the lack of fairies.

Still, what the show lacked in fairy dust and sparkles, it made up for with feline fun thanks to a litter of dancing cats offering back-up to Puss in Boots.

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With most of the pantomime elements we've come to expect intact and a story-line that see the beautiful princess fall in love with the man of her dreams while they fend off the forces of evil, this show ticks most of the 'traditional' boxes.

The small cast works immensely hard throughout and more than proves you don't need a big celebrity name to grab the attention of your young audience.

Ignoring the one or two moments where the microphones needed turning down, the singing throughout is a spot on.

The set for this show is like something out of my own childhood pantomime memories and features some lovely painted backdrops, while using minimal props.

You might think that being squeezed into a show that doesn't really need a dame might have dampened James Nickerson's enthusiasm somewhat, but the Theatre Royal panto veteran played his Dame Nellie Gwyn with gusto - even though at times he came across as a bit too drag queen and not enough comedy queen.

Audiences hugely enjoyed Bradley Clarkson as a suitably dashing Jack and Helena Blackman as a nicely feline Puss. Helena gained fame as the runner up to Connie Fisher on BBC1's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria.

Mark Stratton does a good turn doubling up as both King and baddie, while Abi Newberry's Princess Caroline was sweet but saddled with some very strange dialogue.

Star turn of the night however really must go to Dennis Herdman as baddie's accomplice Hench. Like a cross between Blackadder's Baldrick and something out of a children's tv programme, his constant energy and non-stop performance were a joy.

In all, Puss in Boots as a story is unlikely to make it into any pantomime top ten, but this production certainly hit the spot with its young audience, who lapped up every moment and left the theatre purring with happiness.

HELEN JOHNS

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