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A magical experience for young and old

Family fun: Zachary Kawaley-Lathan and Kitrina Kawaley-Lathan tread the boards

With 47 actors and dancers and almost the same number of production staff, Puss in Boots Bollywood Style: A Pantomime was a triumph of organisation and teamwork.

Writer/director Carol Birch, composer James Burn, musical director Kate Ross, choreographer Charlotte Morrell and producer Jennifer Campbell all contributed to the annual show. Sunday’s matinee at the Earl Cameron Theatre was packed to capacity.

The vocal and energetic audience was composed of about 50 per cent children, 25 per cent parents and about the same number of grandparents — the perfect mix for a pantomime.

Although the story of Puss in Boots can be traced in Europe to 16th-century Italy and its stage version as pantomime in England to the time of Joseph Grimaldi in the 18th century, the story of a cat helping its master to gain fame and fortune originates in 5th-century India. Carol Birch’s decision to give the story a Bollywood flavour is a clever nod to its origins.

Zachary Kawaley-Lathan plays the penniless Sanjay who inherits a talking cat Jacques (Katrina Kawaley-Lathan); his siblings Meaner (Joanna Heaney) and Minor (Elaine Pearce) inherited all the assets of value from their miller father (Jon Brunson).

The cat turns out to be magic and, with audience help, enables Sanjay to win the heart of Princess Merunessa (Jada Simmons-Trott) and defeat the machinations of the Evil Vizier/ogre (Sean Angiers) at the court of the Rahja (Tim Stewart).

Stephen Notman creates a traditional, outrageous dame role (Windy Loo) in various manifestations — first as the goddess Kali, complete with six arms and puns to match. His performance was excellent, leading my granddaughter to whisper: “Poppa, I don’t think that that woman is a woman.”

James Burn’s music, always catchy and energetic, contained two standout numbers: the lovers’ poignant duet Dare to Dream was beautifully executed by Sanjay and Merunessa; Vizier’s Evil is the Way to Go came complete with a trio of utterly authentic Evil Supremes (Jennifer Campbell, Emma Muggleton and Sheila Smith).

Barbara Outerbridge’s Bollywood-style costumes complemented Nancy Thompson’s Mughal-inspired sets to make this show an immersive, magical experience for young and old.