On the prowl for life and love

cougars

Pippa Winslow (Lilly), Barnaby Hughes (Buck), Suanne Braun (Mary Marie) and Dawn Hope (Clarity). Pictures: Robert Day

Cougar – The Musical

Coventry Belgrade B2

****

WHY pillory lust when one can exult in it? This compactly directed, amusing piece of nonsense is pure entertainment, and as such can be enjoyed for its mild raunchiness, suggestiveness, cheekiness.

It’s a let-your-hair-down entertainment with some good albeit tame songs, all well delivered with plenty of pzazz and panache. Serious? Certainly not. Witty and amusing? All the way through. Overall, it’s one big giggle.

Some of the movement is really slick, at other times neat but a mite short on invention (choreographer Racky Plews); but the fours characters and musicians Neil MacDonald (Kurzweil keyboard) and Joe Pickering (drums) maintain the pace, and the last two manage well, especially given their gift for holding back and cutting down, which enables them to produce far subtler musical effects, even with these minimal forces, than if they had merely bashed away.

These three, Lily, Mary-Marie and Clarity, are essentially on the prowl (the first song, of that title, was one of the best in the show.) The trio of sex-starved norns (Pippa Winslow, Suanne Braun, Dawn Hope) not only excel in their set pieces (Winslow poignant and engaging, Braun a rhythmic pleasure, Hope a rich lower voice that worked wonders). They interact well. They keep you lively. They make you laugh.   

Out of nowhere they conjure a ‘younger’ man (Barnaby Hughescougars), playing a series of young bucks or beaux, and proceed in their different ways to gloat over his presentable six-pack and affable personality. The jokes are rather mild for a sex-mad show: ‘If I can swagger then I can shag her’ is one of the few blatant sex quips. ‘Oedipussy complex’ another. But Lily’s idea of setting up a ‘Faceliftbook’ website deserved its laugh.

Barnaby Hughes as the Bourbon Cowboy with Suanne Braun as Mary Marie.

Some of the numbers – ‘Yes’, ‘Let’s talk about you’ hit the jackpot, and some crazy gymnastics from Hope’s Clarity were brilliantly unny. So was her pissed scene, pouring gin and bourbon down the hatch together. The other two performances were skilled and enjoyable; she, with her range and variety, was rather more of a revelation.

‘I’ve met someone, he’s sexy, he’s hot…he’s my daughter’s age’ draws attention to one drawback. It is virtually impossible to separate the hunky Hughes in age from the rest of them. They are in their forties; he looks in his 30s. Given that Clarity (or whichever of them) is happy to go down as far as, if not 18, then 19, all the perplexedness and keeping at arms’ length and – perhaps – yielding by the younger loses its cradle snatching specialness.

Buck holds his own, interspersing a presentable falsetto here and there. ‘Love is ageless’, sung with Lily, was another attractively sung song (her ‘Maybe on this planet it’s a good thing exposing yourself to your son’ one of the more interesting if near the bone observations); and when Mary-Marie launches into a kind of central American bossa nova, we got another hit; she can do Big Mamma, can do Hispanic: a performer of some range.

So – not a particularly serious or even meaningful show. Directed by Patricia Benecke and written by Donna Moore, it was too punchy to be poignant. We needed to be moved more, to get to grips with the loneliness that being without a man brings. By being endlessly witty, it wraps us in laughs but never, or rarely, hits that emptiness. So – nearly, but not quite. To 06-06-15

Roderic Dunnett

19-05-15  

Contents page Belgrade  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre