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Theatre Review: This 101 Dalmatians is barking up the wrong tree

Kate Fleetwood plays a delectably wicked Cruella de Vil for all she’s worth, but this is otherwise a dog's dinner

Kate Fleetwood as Cruella de Vil. Photo: Mark Senior

101 Dalmatians
Regent’s Park Theatre, London, until August 28

I recall the late Sir Christopher Lee saying to me how, after years of playing bit parts, he couldn’t believe he had relatively clear shots at playing the title role in Dracula and then the creature in The Curse of Frankenstein.

Some actors may well be snobby about them, but it’s the monsters we always find ourselves looking at on both screen and stage. I might add I am seeing that up in Edinburgh now as Andrew Woodall traverses the stage as the Daily Mail boss Paul Dacre in my play Bloody Difficult Women.

Kate Fleetwood is without question the star of Timothy Sheader’s 101 Dalmatians, playing a delectably wicked Cruella de Vil for all she’s worth. I found myself looking forward to every appearance by the actress – best known for playing Mary Cattermole in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – but then this is an otherwise singularly desultory production.

Colin Richmond’s set – boringly made up of the show’s title littered around the stage – seems to be more of an assault course for the actors to somehow negotiate, and the music and lyrics by Douglas Hodge are like a dully throbbing migraine. Toby Olié’s puppet dalmatians are sweet enough, meanwhile, but there is little opportunity for them to communicate personality and their owners, Danielle (Karen Fishwick) and Dominic (Eric
Stroud), seem curiously indifferent to their fates throughout. There’s no
more appealing venue on hot summer nights than the open-air theatre in
Regent’s Park, but in all honesty, this is a dog’s dinner of a show.

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