Oedipuss In Boots

Wed 12th – Sun 23rd December 2012

reviews

Sam Hughes

at 00:58 on 14th Dec 2012

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Based around the storyline of the Greek myth Oedipus, Oedipuss in Boots is a delightfully crafted, surreal and well performed play that had me and the rest of the audience in hysterics on multiple occasions. Cast out as a kitten from his royal home due to his father’s cat allergy, Oedipuss (James Kent) is adopted by a pair of mill-workers, of questionable mental health and whose eldest child Clive is a brown bag of flour, brought up as a human. At the grand old age of twelve, Oedipuss gets the urge to see the world and take his Casio keyboard fuelled music out on the road but his overprotective adoptive parents forbid him from stepping outside, revealing the cause of their fragile mental state whilst Oedipuss licks himself clean. Soon after, our feline hero gets his wish as he unwittingly murders his innocent, powdery brother and is once again expelled from the family home. Hungry and alone, the furry Oedipuss now finds himself in a confusing and often hostile world where he has his life turned tail over teat when told he is not in fact a human and he takes yet another life. To those unfamiliar with the story of Oedipus, do not be put off as the play would not suffer without prior knowledge and is well portrayed by the Wardrobe cast such that it is easily understandable and is able to stand on its own merits rather than be bogged down by its mythological namesake; a particular highlight was the rock, paper, scissors sketch with the multicultural knights.

Taking the title role, James Kent played Oedipuss smartly. Though not the main focus for comedy outlet James delivered his lines with a great sense of timing and was obviously well rehearsed. Restricted in his ability to roam the stage by his character’s short stature and lack of thumbs, James still managed to attract the audience’s collective attention where he could have easily been overshadowed by his supporting cast members as they performed their various character roles with a large serving of seasonal pantomime in contrast to his more subtle approach. More emotional variety could have been displayed at times, I feel, especially during the ghost scene but I do not wish to undermine what was a good and solid performance. The moustachioed Andrew Kingston and generously bearded Harry Humberstone took charge of all the other characters in some style! Each new personality introduced was well conceived and the pair deserve much credit for their individual and ensemble performances. Andrew displayed his obvious talent for accents ranging from Scouse to Scottish to Japanese; he raised the bar so high that his Eastern European, although recognisable, just didn't quite reach the standard he had set himself. As well as this he proved himself to be a fantastic presence on stage and his moments of ad lib added brilliant gloss sheen to a great overall performance. Harry Humberstone too showed off his knack for an accent but it was his physical performance, aided by his gangly limbs, and ability to deliver superb comic material maintaining a dead-pan expression that impressed me the most. Genius.

When arriving for the play I honestly had no idea what to expect. Described as “full of dark, twisted, adult humour” Oedipuss in Boots could have been over seasoned with the rude and crude but in reality it was a truly engaging and original slice of theatre. A clever touch I particularly appreciated was the all-male cast consisting of only 3 members, surely referencing back to the traditions of Greek theatre. Director Chris Collier and Producer Matthew Whittle can be more than proud of the cast and are owed a great deal of praise themselves for putting together, along with the rest of the backstage crew, a great evening of entertainment, perhaps just not for the whole family!

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Anwen Jones

at 16:07 on 15th Dec 2012

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Having studied the original Greek drama Oedipus Rex, I was intrigued, to say the least, as to how the Wardrobe Theatre could possibly perform a 'mother loving puntomime' about a story of murder, child abandonment and a whole load of incest. I think it's fair to say that those features don't immediately come to mind as traditional comical topics. However, the play on words evident in the production's own title gave me some hint as to what I could expect from this year's anti-christmas production.

Opening with an expertly crafted film with a moving cat puppet chasing the names of the production team, directors and cast members, it was immediately obvious that this show was based primarily on creative and innovative thinking. Indeed, by the time two hairy men appeared on stage, one dressed as what seemed to be a gangly, cross-dressing gypsy with hazy eyes and the other as a short, beard-bearing, half-covered Scot, I knew I was in for a night of 'creative' characterisations and bizarre happenings.

This couple - for, despite being two male cast members, the Scot and gypsy were in fact man and wife - and their Son Clive who was in fact a bag of flour (don't ask) set the show off to a roaring start. Harry Humberstone's portrayal of Oedipuss' adoptive mother was carried off in a hilarious style with his floating voice and jelly-like limbs causing outbursts of laughter from the audience at every occasion whilst Andrew Kingston demonstrated his exceptional skill at accents and perfect comic timing as the red-faced, moustache-sporting father. The two actors played brilliantly against each other in all their alternative, inventive and scarily realistic roles. No doubt they had just as good a time as the audience members watching them.

This is not to say however, that the third member of the cast (James Kent) playing our purring hero was not also a great comedic character on stage. Although taking on a role which was more understated than the brutally wacky characters of Kingston and Humberstone, Kent executed Oedipuss' crisis of identity with subtle flair. His awareness of his wonderfully made puppet - praise goes to Debbie Hard for inventing such an aesthetic yet accessible piece of costume - was always on point, not to mention his well-timed paw licks, realistic cat 'meows' and facial expressions. But the real praise for Kent is for remembering the script and not corpsing whilst the Queen Jocasta (Kington) splattered impromptu moustache filled kisses all over his face.

I have to say I was laughing from start to finish; at some points - particularly the rock, paper, scissor scene - the whole audience were gasping for air which clearly shows how brilliantly bizarre and hilarious the whole show is. It is true that the comedy sometimes fell under the 'Family Guy' style and so may not appeal to everybody but, humour removed, the craft of the script and plot is truly exceptional and different. Both Chris Collier and David Whittle should be proud of their work; it is such a comedic piece of theatre around a story which is intrinsically worrying, disgusting and bizarre. I was very impressed, quite bowled over and am continuing to laugh when I think about various scenes and lines. A great success and definitely worth a visit!

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