Bright, light and meandering, Toby Hulse’s Puss in Boots is a cheerful trad pantomime weighed down by a few too many ideas.
Shifting the familiar tale to the 1950s, Hulse sets up – but never expands on – a rich backstory involving protest movements, plots-within-plots, and a 600-year-old feline protagonist locked in an intergenerational vendetta with the descendants of the original King Rat.
Director John Terry makes the most of a small stage, packing in car chases and prison breaks with the aid of simple but effective projections. Surreal gags – endless streams of security guards, escape tunnels dug through mid-air – lift the show when the energy begins to dip.
Lucy-Jane Quinlan is a likeable, if underused, lead as landlord’s daughter Tiffany, the only clear thinker in a crowd of dreamers. Anna Tolputt gives a charismatic turn as the eponymous cat, keeping her cool and crooning along during the musical numbers, while Rowan Talbot is especially strong as the villainous King Rat, swaggering about with his hands curled into claws, habitually gnawing his lip.
Helen Coyston’s vibrant costumes tie all the wild ideas together, with bold blocks of colour and high-contrast tartans reflecting the zany tone.