By Danielle Farrow
As Big Shoes Theatre Company says in its promotion material, “Puss-in-Boots is a Commedia dell’Arte inspired feast of fun, complete with cats, rats, music, mayhem and Carter’s extraordinary text.” Carter’s vision uses stock characters and situations from Commedia, so that the famous Puss is helping his master to woo the young wife of an old miser, ably assisted by her cat to overcome the stern wardenship of a vicious crone.
The music – providing some of the fun on offer – is played live and the songs flow well, are apt and show the young, all-female cast to be musically strong. There are fine dance and gymnastic abilities on display, also, with plenty of energy from most of the cast members, strong attack and characterisation from the old crone, with some detail in gesture from the miser, great clarity – even when veiled – and decent acting from the miser’s beautiful wife, and a Chorus whose promise means one could wish she did more.
Puss’ love interest, Tabs, is very entertaining, showing dance, comedy and acting skills, and providing brilliant cat noises. She is able to raise Puss’ acting performance when the two work together. However, while Puss’ physicality is impressive, and the young master’s musical abilities sometimes shine, they are not as strong in bringing Carter’s fine phrasings to life. As they carry much of the text, this is the main weakness of the show.
The staging is simple and well-used, with two ladders for buildings and two baskets for various scene props, including fun in depicting the responses of Bergamo burghers to Puss’ caterwauling and protecting any delicate sensibilities when the two cats get particularly friendly.
Puss-in-Boots is entertaining, strong in physicality and musicality, and its pace and energy are kept up well, but Carter’s witty and vocabulary-rich text requires a full cast of strong actors to serve it best.
5, 7 & 9 August, 14:05 (14:50) @ theSpace @ North Bridge