Owl and Pussycat

Danny Lane as Owl and Sally Frith as Pussycat in their beautiful, pea green boat

The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

Coventry Belgrade B2


ANYONE reading The Owl and the Pussycat might well be forgiven for wondering what exotic variety of tobacco Edward Lear had been smoking at the time of writing. It is complete and utter nonsense.

And that is the premise Eric Idle starts with in his book, The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and Pussycat which has been adapted by Douglas Irvine for this world premiere production.

The poem is nonsense, so to make sense of it we need a story to explain it – at least that is the theory. What we get is still nonsense, of course, but it is now fun with narrative nonsense introducing us to an evil Firelord played by Vedi Roy who is dressed as a cross between Ali G and the Prince of some small principality in a hidden corner of 1930's Europe. He manages a nice balance between being evil and yet not so much so that it frightens the children.

Then there are his evil henchmen Flicker and Brimstone, both played by Yanick Ghanty with a remarkably fast reversing baseball cap to distinguish his two moronic charges. His fight scene between the two, all him of course, is gloriously funny.

They are out to capture the Bong tree which flowers every 65 million years or so to repopulate the Earth when catastrophe threatens – and the threat is a comet heading on a collision course. The Firelord does not want the earth repopulated though, he wants it barren like the other planets his brothers are in charge of – it’s a long story, just accept, and don’t ask why or argue.

So then we have the Owl, who can’t fly . . . because it causes rain . . . played with some lovely touches by Danny Lane – he was my five year-old grandson’s favourite - and Sally Frith as a delightful pussycat who does not eat the owl because she has eaten two birds already and three gives her wind.

Perhaps a few porkies going on there from the vegetarian cat and the somewhat flightless owl, and, speaking of porkies, we have Lizzie Wofford as Professor Bosh, a dinosaur, or at least its fossil projected on a back wall, and the pig with a ring it will sell for a shilling through its nose. The pig, dressed in pink gingham, appearing to be American and an extra from Carousel or State Fair. She's just a pig who just wants to dance. Kids loved her.

pig, Yin and Yang

Lizzie Wofford as the pig with pie-rats Yin and Yang

Miri Gellert weighs in with the Irish turkey who lives on the hill, who even in this load of old tosh – that’s the city where it all starts by the way – talks nonsense. She also has her hands full, literally, with hand puppets Yin and Yang the pie-rats who scour the seven seas looking for pies.

Put them all together and that explains not only Edward Lear’s much loved poem . . . sort of . . . and why the comet never collided with earth which meant that the Bong tree, who sounds remarkably like Eric Idle, perhaps because it is him, and is the only tree that can migrate, can become dormant for another 65 million years or so.

The production, from Selladoor, and directed by Hamish Glen, is delightfully daft with enough pace and simple humour to carry children along with enough subtlety to amuse adults as well.

Libby Watson’s setting is a masterwork in packing a whole world into a small space with a circular  rear wall full of doors and a revolve for the journey in the pea green boat as well as steps behind, into the clouds to reach the rainbow.

Video projected on wall and floor give us sea, ice, rainbows, comets, night skies, flying owls, odd creatures, a Bong tree  -whatever the story demands to give an ever changing backdrop. Irvine, the adaptor, has added some simple songs, both cheery and sad, which are not too long and have a nice rhythm making them child friendly.

Not sure if nonsense to explain nonsense actually makes sense, like double negatives or something, but it certainly makes for an entertaining couple of hours for sox, or so, and upwards. The production doesn't patronise or talk down to children, it just tells its tale and lets imagination do the rest.

Still what do I know. I have managed to avoid growing up so far but when it comes to shows for children I bow to my grandson, and he loved it, and he should know, with more than two dozen shows under his reviewing belt already. And as a big kid at heart, I tend to agree with him. To 04-03-17

Roger Clarke


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