Theatre Review: Puss In Boots – A Cat With Connections, Or Creature Comforter

March 19, 2022

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Puss In Boots / Directed by Ivor Jones / National Children’s Theatre, Parktown, Johannesburg

Where children’s stories often have an element of escapism, Puss In Boots takes its audience back into the realm of the smooth operator who balances their connections in such a way as to ensure the best outcome for themselves – like a corporate boardroom, but with better costumes.

This new production plays out against the background of a brightly-coloured circus scene designed by Sarah Roberts, with a river that can be added or removed depending on the scene, and a bit of imagination required to picture the respective castles of the good king (Thokozani Jiyane) and the evil wizard (Jay Hlatshwayo).

Charles Perrault’s original tale is given added zip and energy, requiring the cast of five (the aforementioned pair plus Nathan Hammond as Jack, the miller’s naive son; Namakhosi Mkhonza as the beautiful princess who catches his eye; and Laura Nell Kleynhans as the title character) to be on point from start to finish, carrying the narrative forward and also regularly breaking off to sing and dance.

For the adults who have brought their kids to the show, these musical interludes are often the highlights, as the choice of a particular song by musical director Christine Ludwig is often a punchline in itself, raising a chuckle as the opening bars are recognised and ushering in heightened periods of entertainment as the cast somehow fit their collective choreography into the remaining open space of the outside stage without holding back at all in terms of effort and expression.

Some of the story threads wander off into inconsistent alleyways, but the show’s young target audience don’t appear to notice, and for everyone else, a bad situation mysteriously becoming a good one is always going to be a positive anyway.

The bulk of the expected audience here is under ten years old, but such is the good humour of the piece and the amiability of the atmosphere that a trip to the National Children’s Theatre is a lovely outing for a family with older kids as well.

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