101 Dalmatians at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre review: Cruella with a sexy twist
Posted by  badge Boss on Jul 26
Kate Fleetwood plays the evil puppy-skinning influencer (Picture: Mark Senior)

In this new musical, Kate Fleetwood’s new Cruella is less the high society fashionista of the films than a ruthless, street-savvy influencer.

It is not so much entitlement that allows her to think that puppy fur looks better on her than it does on puppies, but the visceral – sometimes sexual – satisfaction she takes in doing bad things. Orgasmically so, when it helps her go viral.

In Timothy Sheader’s characteristically well-choreographed production, the queen of cruel has the bearing, mind-set and the moral compass of a gestapo dominatrix.

Which is to say it doesn’t exactly point north as Fleetwood, who has previously stormed the stage as Lady Macbeth opposite Sir Patrick Stewart, channels that ruthlessness here.

The show is packed with ideas, people and puppets –  a concept that gets precariously close to a dog’s dinner.

Colin Richmond’s conceptual design is dominated by a giant red collar and a lead that wends its way around the open air stage like a great panting tongue.

Perdu and Pongo are cumbersomely played by puppets (Picture: Mark Senior)
The conceptual set dominates the stage (Picture: Mark Senior)

Supersized mobile letters, which in the right order (not often) spell out the species in the show’s title, combine to create sets such as the modest home in which Dalmatian owners Danielle (Karen Fishwick) and Dominic (Eric Stroud) live.

It takes, somewhat cumbersomely, and the score by Douglas Hodge is oddly absent of sweet melody.

Yet all this eventually coheres into something greater than the sum of its parts.  The music well suits Fleetwood’s vocal range as she power sings with a voice that could smother a dog whistle. 

And although Zinnie Harris’s adaptation of Dodie Smith’s original novel peddles dog-eared observations about populist politics (Cruella’s coat of many pelts and of just the two colours will promote her manifesto of ‘British dogs for British people’), there are thought-provoking insights about the life of influencers.

Fleetwood’s version sports the classic painted-on pout for selfies – but is elsewhere revealed to be a friendless life of self-obsession and solitude.