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Saturday, March 17, 2012

HOW TO CATCH A COUGAR

(Liesl Coppin)

Two ferocious cougars pursue younger partners in this entertaining production! (Review by Caroline Smart)

The cougar, a large member of the cat family often known as a puma or a panther, is almost the same size as a human being. However, the name has acquired a very different meaning over the last few years and loosely defines a woman over the age of 40 or so who actively sources sexual relationships with men much younger than they are.

Hence the title of the production currently running at the Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest: How to Catch a Cougar. Devised and directed by Charon Williams-Ros and produced by Gary McKenzie, it’s an entertaining show on a stylish set with leopard prints abounding in the d├ęcor and costumes.

Featuring the acclaimed talents of Liesl Coppin; Marion Loudon; Lyle Buxton, and Rory Booth, the show focuses on two young adventurers (Buxton and Booth) who stalk two older and highly attractive women.

They have decided to write a manual on how to catch a cougar and start identifying each process with appropriate songs helping the storyline along. Step 1 Older Woman followed by an Abba medley with Take a Chance; Gimme Gimme; Mamma Mia, Voulez Vous and Money, Money, Money charts the course from introduction to promising progress to the fact that this whole thing is an expensive business!

The relationships grow, as do the energies – leading from “how to catch” to “how to survive”. By the time they reach Step 4, things are getting emotionally deep. Then things start to fall apart and the young men are now faced with the worry of what happens when their ladies get bored with them?

The women’s outfits are stylish and sophisticated. Mind you, those two even look good in hospital gowns!

There are very amusing scenes such as Stacey’s Mom with Coppin as the sexy teacher, Buxton as the smitten school boy and Loudon and Booth as his naiive counterparts.

The excellent Sold Gold band and vocalist Portia Zungu are seated high at the back – visible but not intrusive. Generally the sound balance is good but this favoured the band a number of times in the second half, forcing the performers to over-project.

Other problems I had were mainly to do with structure. I felt the tango number would have been better placed in the first half when the passion grows between the couples. While the chat-show host character, Taravet, is very amusing she introduces an incongruous narrative element. If we had seen her from the very beginning, she would have blended more effectively into the production.

While there is obviously a very strong sexual focus to the production, it is never offensive or distasteful. It offers an evening of amusing fun and well-known numbers skilfully linked and presented by a well-directed cast. It’s worth the trip up to Hillcrest for Durbanites!

Tickets include a two-course meal with drinks for patrons’ own account and desserts are extra. Starters include Roasted Vegetable Soup, Summer Bruschetta, Mushroom and Butternut Thermidor. I had the thermidor which was a perfect size and neatly served in a ramekin. My husband – who tends to avoid vegetables like the plague – actually opted for the vegetable soup and pronounced it very good. Praise indeed! For main course, we both enjoyed the Slow Roasted Leg of Veal with its mild brandy sauce. Other options are a Vegetable Platter; Seafood Pasta and Chicken Tagine. The legendary Heritage’s Lamb Shank is back, much to patrons’ delight. However, it is only available at an extra R60.

How to Catch a Cougar runs at Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest until April 1. Tickets R195 pp Wednesdays to Saturdays (R165 pp Tuesday evenings and Sunday lunch time). Bookings on 031 765 4197 or online at www.heritagetheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart