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Theatre review: Puss in Boots at the Hackney Empire

PUBLISHED: 17:43 12 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:43 12 December 2013

King Konkers the Bonkers (Tony Timerlake), Kat B as Puss in Boots and Stephen Matthews as Dame Nettie Knowall  in Puss in Boots at The Hackney Empire, photo Robert Workman

King Konkers the Bonkers (Tony Timerlake), Kat B as Puss in Boots and Stephen Matthews as Dame Nettie Knowall in Puss in Boots at The Hackney Empire, photo Robert Workman

© Robert Workman

Queen of the panto scene, director and writer Susie McKenna, has worked her tried and tested formula of catchy live music, dazzling set designs and side-splitting humour on the Perrault classic, Puss in Boots.

Princess Pertunia in Puss in Boots, photo Robert WorkmanPrincess Pertunia in Puss in Boots, photo Robert Workman

As always, she breaks convention with a plotline that few would recognise, and a roller coaster journey of intrigue ensues with a dose of fairy magic, long lost step brothers and marital infidelity, along with several baddies in the guise of an evil queen, an evil witch and an ogre that takes your breath away.

The customary local references and gags make you proud to be from Hackney, focusing on the Royal residence of Downspark Abbey in the Kingdom of Hackneyonia.

And the cast are just purr-fect.

Hackney favourite and long-time Empire supporter, DJ and MTV presenter Kat B takes centre stage as the Casanova cat, Puss.

The cast of Puss in Boots at The Hackney EmpireThe cast of Puss in Boots at The Hackney Empire

His charismatic personality goes down a treat and the audience are in stitches as he delivers his punch lines.

Amy Lennox’s hoity-toity Pertunia makes a refreshing antidote to sugary sweet princesses as she swaggers around in platform shoes, and Darren Hart’s interpretation of the maid, Amnesiah, is hilarious, with his loud cackle and fidgetty manner.

Susie’s ever wonderful script pushes predictability on its head, with playful scenes like the one in which Matt Dempsey as Thomas and Pertunia don’t fall in love, because he’s too common and she’s too rude.

Younger children will love it, and adults are suitably indulged with hilariously silly jokes, topical references and lashings of innuendo from Dame Nettie Knowall, played by Stephen Matthews, as she strikes up a romance with King Konkers the Bonkers (Tony Timberlake).

The musical score, by Steven Edis, mixes original compositions with pop favourites, like Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, belted out by Sharon D Clarke and Pertunia’s botched rendition of Katy Perry’s Roar slipped in at just the right comic moment.

It just wouldn’t be Christmas nowadays without this fixture in my calendar.

Puss in Boots runs until Sunday January 5 and tickets cost £10-£32.

To book, call 020 8985 2424 or go to www.hackneyempire.co.uk.


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