See This: The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry)
Who believes in nonsense? Anyone with an absurdist, Monty Python-esque sense of humour – adults and children – will absolutely love this.
Adapted from Edward Lear’s 1871 nonsense poem into a story, by no other than Eric Idle, it’s a whole lotta fun.
The Belgrade’s Artistic Director Hamish Glen brings this zippy new family-friendly musical for ages 6+, to life on the B2 stage for its UK premiere in Coventry – where co-incidentally the Monty Pythons first performed live on stage in 1971 with three sell-out shows. I had my fingers-crossed that Eric Idle may have turned up for last night’s press night. But the Monty Python now lives in LA. Apparently, he’s been very supportive – grown-ups might even spot his voice…
A terminally shy, stargazing owl, who likes to read books and cannot fly, meets Northern vegetarian cat, who loves to dance. Two lonely soulmates. Their costumes and animal mimicry are fab. Owl (Danny Lane) sports a grey tracksuit and Converse with his hands in his pockets – his elbows imitate the actions of feathered wings. Tall, elegant Pussycat (Sally Frith) wears a fur waistcoat, skirt, black boots and a tiny top hat. She is extremely lithe and can do the splits.
The pair bond while attempting trying to save Earth from a comet in a beautiful pea green boat on a sea of jam, as you do. Along the way to the Land of Bong to find the missing walking-talking Bong Tree – the only thing that can save the planet – they encounter evil Firelord and his dim-witted henchman Brimstone and Flicker, (both played by Yanick Ghanty), two puppet pirates, an Irish Turkey and a cool American 50s retro pig in a pink gingham dress and plimsolls, who loves to jive.
There’s even Monty Python-like cartoon animations projected onto the stage set. From the minute, you walk into B2 you’re swept into the performance by five actor-musicians, including guitarist Dougal Irvine, who adapted Idle’s book into a musical. On stage the triangle player threatens to quit pointing out the idiosyncrasies of Lear’s poem. “It’s all made up nonsense,” he says. “What on earth is a runcible spoon or a Bong tree?”
I took along my 8-year-old daughter, who whispered: “It’s a bit like a pantomime.” She was a little frightened of the evil lava Firelord, before he turns into a human, but gave it a big thumbs-up.
It’s very funny and quite ingenious in parts, particularly a cleverly choreographed fight scene in which actor Vanick Ghanty battles himself; and Miri Gellert’s mastery in handling the pirate hand puppets, Yin and Yang. The adults outnumbered the children at press night but the witty script, lovely catchy songs and excellent cast kept both ridiculously amused.
The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat runs until March 4 at The Belgrade Theatre, Belgrade Square, Coventry, CV1 1GS. Box office: 024 7655 3055, belgrade.co.uk