Players’ double bill of light and shade

COOL CATS: Alicia Onza, Lauren Speed, Sally-Anne Kerry and front Aidan Greenfield and Rhian Gerrard. in Aristocats at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, on July 13 and 14.
COOL CATS: Alicia Onza, Lauren Speed, Sally-Anne Kerry and front Aidan Greenfield and Rhian Gerrard. in Aristocats at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, on July 13 and 14.

Theatregoers and cast alike settled in for a long night at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate last week, as Inspirations Theatre Company presented not just one but two shows.

Aristocats, based on the Disney movie, gave Inspirations’ younger members a chance to infect the audience with their enthusiasm.

A veritable menagerie of animals, skipped and danced across the stage.

Geese, mice, dogs, the odd human and even the audience joined in the fun as the pampered Aristocats were saved from a fate worse than death by swaggering Thomas O’Malley (Jack Owen) and his tribe of alley cats in the true spirit of ensemble theatre.

Needless to say, the butler (Thomas Ryan-Edwards) was the bad guy, and it all ended on a high note.

After the interval things grew a little more serious. The award-winning musical Rent tackles dark issues including poverty, homelessness, addiction and AIDS in New York’s Bohemian East Village, in a story loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme.

Despite the grim background and themes, exuberant performances and some strong voices from leading players brought the scenario to life and aroused sympathy for the characters as they went through love, loss and battles for justice.

Among the strongest were David Reaney as cross-dresser Angel, resplendent in six-inch heels and assorted wigs; Natalie Hollingsworth playing Maureen the passionate performance artist and Olivia Fleming as Joanne her same-sex lover; and Daniel Woolley and Katie Lockwood portraying troubled couple Roger and Mimi.

The School Edition takes out some language likely to offend, but is no less hard-hitting for that.

This sharp, zippy production was another feather in Inspirations’ cap.

LYNNE PATRICK