RESERVOIR MOGS at the Wardrobe in Bristol

It’s the time of the year for Christmas shows and this includes the Wardrobe Theatre’s alternative offering. This time the unlikely mash up is between Quentin Tarantino’s 1992  film Reservoir Dogs and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical Cats, based on the writing of TS Eliot.

Fans of the festive fusion will not be disappointed.  Four female felines take liberties with the plots of both originals to create a fun packed evening.

It will pay audiences to be familiar with the Tarantino film to fully enjoy all the references and appreciate that Mr White, Mr Blonde, Mr Orange and Mr Pink think, prowl and yowl like cats in a broad ‘New Yoik’ accent.  On a simple but authentic looking set looking uncannily like the warehouse scene from the film, the four characters are introduced following the botched heist to steal the fabled Jellicle Ball. Black Jackets, white shirts and black ties along with fetching tight black leotards give a moggie makeover, complemented by excellent make-up and hair.

Lotte Allan, Emma Keaveney-Roys, Lizzy Sckrzpiec and Katey Sobey recreate the heist with a selection of flashbacks, music and dazzling choreography. Their characterisation is complete.

The show scores best when the dialogue puns its way through a variety of Tomcat related tomfoolery and much of the humour is of the pun related kind.  The physicality and slinky slickness of all four actors provides a punchiness and stealth to the well-choreographed songs.  Movement director Laura Street has not put a paw wrong in conveying the world of cat and mouse.  All performers are excellent although the cat that gets the cream is Lizzy Sckrypiec as the Moggy Moll with the most, Mr – or more appropriately – Mrs White.  She closes the first Act with the best song in the show and her marvellously rich voice always commands attention.

Wardrobe co-directors Adam Fuller and Mathew Whittle ensure that the energy doesn’t flag as the plot sticks closely to the movie and things ramp up a good deal more in the second half.  Some earlier casual audience participation is just a taster and the movie’s best known torture scene is imaginatively and brilliantly re-imagined to the delight of a whooping audience. This really is the cat’s whiskers and almost steals the show.

When things turn nasty and the fur and recriminations fly, it’s almost a dog eat dog world out there – only that can’t be right.  A pistol toting finale requires the audience to count how many cats’ lives have been lost and the show ends with the sort of flourish that doesn’t put your back up.

That most of the laughs come from the physicality and puns suggests that work is needed to create a more mature script.  The numerous profanities sometimes get a cheap and easy laugh, but the company are capable of more than this and the best elements don’t rely on them.

The show runs right through to 21st January, and even though it isn’t purrfect, it provides a great alternative to more traditional Christmas fare.     ★★★☆☆    Bryan Mason   26th November 2017

Photo by Paul Blakemore