• Musical
  • Librettist: A.C.H. Smith
  • Composer: Christopher Northam
  • Director: Tony Rowlands
  • Cast includes: Simon Vardakis, Frazer Meakin, Lily Dyble, Hayley Guest
  • Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol
  • 12 October 2017
  • Review by Marine Furet
  • 13 October 2017
Pussy: An Angela Carter Musical Extravaganza
3.0Reviewer's Rating

Angela Carter lovers everywhere, rejoice! 2017 has been a year rich in events, plays, conferences, concerts, and exhibitions celebrating the work of the writer, 25 years after her death at the age of just 51. Shakespeare’s Globe former artistic director, Emma Rice, even announced an upcoming production of the novel Wise Children, to be performed next year. Pussy: An Angela Carter Musical Extravaganza is the latest in several theatrical adaptations of Carter’s writing. The play is a musical rendition of the story ‘Puss-in-Boots’. It is taken from the short story collection The Bloody Chamber, in which Carter gives a troubling twist to European fairy tales. The tale was also made into a play by Carter herself. Pussy, however, is a brand new creation by the newly minted Renato’s Theatre Company. True to Carter’s original voice and joyfully immoral intents, this is a small scale but truly funny production, despite some less memorable performances.

An enterprising if occasionally lewd cat, Puss (played by Simon Vardakis) and his Master (Frazer Meakin) happily live a life of gambling, pilfering, and debauchery. Their dolce vita comes to an end when Master becomes enamoured with Mademoiselle (Hayley Guest), the wife of a cruel old miser. With the help of Mademoiselle’s cat Tabs, Puss hatches a plot to unite the lovers, who are left at the mercy of their furry friends’ manoeuvres.

Puss is, of course, the first to make his stage entrance, singing his own praises and wiles, but lamenting his Master’s lack thereof. Simon Vardakis’s Puss is an energetic, well-seasoned libertine, doing justice to the innuendos and puns contained in A.C.H. Smith’s excellent script and in Carter’s original story.

Christopher Northam’s score is the other focal point of the play. The melodies are lively and fluid, and give soprano Hayley Guest space to shine. It is regrettable that Master’s performance was perhaps weaker than his onstage partners’, as his airs were some of the funniest of the play. The final air, in which the protagonists assemble to sing a very appropriate MagnifiCAT, is a lovely touch, ending this tale of love, sex, and murderous felines with a comical flourish.

The performance feels a little rushed and constrained by its surroundings, as the comedians had to deliver this very fast-paced story in a particularly small space. The one element of set, a human-size puppet theatre, seems quite bulky in comparison. The play is very short (less than an hour) and its comical potential could also be enhanced by giving more space to some other characters. For example, the Hag who keeps a watch over Mademoiselle seems under-explored, and her interpretation too subdued. However, Pussy remains a timely reminder of the potential of Carter’s writing for new adaptations. The Alma was crammed, a testament to Carter’s lasting fame in Bristol, a city where she lived and studied. Here’s hoping that Pussy will get another, possibly extended rerun!

About The Author

Marine Furet is a PhD student at Cardiff University. She recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Modernist and contemporary literature at the University of Glasgow. After a few years spent thoroughly enjoying Scotland’s lively cultural scene, she is now immersing herself in the Welsh theatrical world. She particularly enjoys what her friends call ‘pessimistic political movies’, ‘experimental stuff’, and everything remotely connected to Angela Carter – but will really watch anything from panto to contemporary dance.

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