101 Dalmatians, theatre review: Comic and camp canine romp hits the spot

Tobacco Factory, Bristol

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The Independent Culture

So much about Christmas theatre productions is over the top. Flamboyant pantomime dames, brassy songs, big choruses. Not so with Travelling Light Theatre Company’s holiday offering at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory. Its production of 101 Dalmatians makes a comic virtue of having just five in its cast (plus three multi-tasking band members) through the ingenious use of props – pink washing-up gloves, tricycles and near on 300 toy dogs – and actors who slip from dog to human and back with surprising ease.

Director Sally Cookson is no stranger to transforming well-loved children’s classics for the stage. Her last, Cinderella, was nominated for an Olivier in 2013. And, thankfully, in this she is no slave to Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel. Rather she oversees a fun, if camp, piece of energetic theatre.

Tristan Sturrock and Lucy Tuck practically wag, both in their roles as dedicated parent Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita, and their owners Mr and Mrs Dearly, such is their exuberance. When their beloved puppies go missing, the chase is on to get them back before a leather-clad, stole-wielding Cruella de Vil (Carla Mendonca) skins the babies for their fur.

So follows an all-singing, dancing and miming romp that provides plenty of imaginative fodder. All credit is due to Felix Hayes who performs a show-stealing performance as five cows at once.

My only fear for this play, which is billed as being for the family, is that – what with references to Strictly Come Dancing, jokes about mastitis and trying to get the children to bed – there may be more in it for the grown-ups than the kids.

To 11 January  (0117 902 0344)

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