One Hundred and One Dalmations, 4****, Birmingham

The One Hindered and One Dilations: Original Story, Dodie Smith; Adaptation: Debbie Isitt

Birmingham Rep Theatre
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval, til13 January 2018
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455

Review: Rod Dungate, 9 December 2017


Enchanting, magical puppetry, but misses a trick or two
This staged version of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS is an engaging retelling of the well-known story. The young audience is engrossed seeing the tale retold live in front of them, and the marvellous puppetry of dogs and cats is a major part of the theatrical magic. The puppets are gorgeous, they enable us to imagine the animals while admiring both the beauty of the puppets and the skills of the puppeteer-actors.

Yet, for my taste, the young people are, to some extent, are offered a lot, but old be offered something even richer. Debbie Isitt’s translation of the book to the stage is not entirely successful. It’s fine in the dialogue section, but in the larger ensemble sections there is a lack of sufficient detail to enable the theatre narrative to fully sustain itself. Director Tessa Walker has not helped here, and sections sometimes fall into messy shouting. There is also a lack of emotional depth, danger and fear are indicated but not truly explored. It’s as if the company has nervously shied away from truly engaging the young people’s emotions. A pity; the production works beautifully on the surface, but it lacks a multi-layered richness.

A great deal of talent on show, nevertheless. As has been mentioned the puppets and puppetry skills are excellent. The team is expertly led by Emma Thornett, Oliver Wellington and Lakesha Cammock as Missis, Pongo and Perdita. Gloria Onitiri is a stylish Cruella de Vil, I love her humour but would have liked more of her really evil side.

An atmospheric score, played live, underpins much of the action, though occasionally the balance between acting and music is not right. There’s a great moment when Cruella breaks into semi-song, it’s a shame this aspect is not further developed, it takes the story on to another level.

2017-12-11 09:57:26

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