On the 11th of September 2017, I sent my friend Ben this message:
And on the 3rd of November, Ben got the ticket confirmation.
Which meant on the 5th of December, I got to watch 101 Dalmatians at the Birmingham Rep
Please do not underestimate how excited I was.
Context: I absolutely LOVE 101 Dalmatians. My parents left me with my Granny watching the first animated film when my brother was born, when I was 19 months old, and when I was 11, we got our very own Dylan.
CHEEKY PLUG MY SISTER RUNS AN INSTAGRAM THEY ARE REALLY CUTE
I know the book and all four films inside out (Animated: 101 Dalmatians and 101 Dalmatians II, Patch’s London Adventure. Live Action: 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians)
So this had a lot to live up to.
I had a really really lovely time. We got the Chiltern train from Leamington to Birmingham Moor Street (always a pleasure with Chiltern.) We got given mulled wine and M&Ms at the theatre, and sat in the auditorium on our perky little butts. I had a notebook but Ben did not. Which makes me the better reviewer, I think.
Going to family shows is such a liberating experience. You’re surrounded by smaller people who are all just SO EXCITED to be there, and they think that the characters exclaiming ‘Good Morning!’ are talking directly to them, so they say ‘HELLOOO!!’ and wave back like little hyper jelly beans.
Theatre Genuinely Becomes a Dialogue Between Actor and Audience. WhoaH.
The REP are captioning all performances of 101 Dalmatians. This is a BRILLIANT decision. Not only is it a great accessibility measure, it totally works as part of the children’s-book mode of storytelling, and ensures no one misses the story due to noisy toddlers. I was very happy.
I transitioned into an actual eight-year-old over the course of the show and my reactions became phrased a little more like this:
“OMG The bad guys are in the audience! BOOOOOO”
“Ben! Look! There’s a Great Dane!”
-I genuinely let out a squeal and clapped my hands at several instances.-
“AAAAH THE LITTLE PUPPIES GOT BIGGER THEY’RE SO CUTE. ”
“Crikey, there’s a lot of lighting states in this.”
Now, the Negatives.
This story means a Lot to me. It’s about love and family and community and adorable doggos. So it really Pissed me Off when somehow, the first act managed to be more sexist than a Disney film made in 1961. Why did Tess Walker feel the need to shoehorn fat jokes and comments on Cruella’s legs into a family story? And there was the WEIRDEST comment about one of the female puppies needing to lose a few pounds. Roly is a boy puppy in the films. So… we’re switching genders in order to… impose body standards on dogs now? Heck. Weird.
Ben mentioned the music in his review, and I agree that it was a little underwhelming, although that may be my bias towards the iconic songs in the films.
I did feel VERY strongly about the Act 1 finale.
It really wasn’t rich enough, and it made the politics feel a bit muddy.
-please don’t laugh at me-
but the twilight bark is really dramatically important
and it needed a CASCADE
you could have had a really polyphonic closing number
with loads of melodies coming together to one climax
because there’s loads of Voices
that’s the point
all different kinds of dogs from different walks of life
barking to each other
to save the puppies
an organic social formation
but with a target
talking to each other is the most powerful political action
it’s the rallying of the canine proleteriat
against the physical embodiment of late capitalism
So yeah, disappointed there.
The great dane was a great boy though.