If there is one cartoon villain guaranteed to send a chill down anyone’s spine, it has to be Cruella De Vil.
Actress Sioned Jones, who is currently playing the evil, fur-obsessed, puppy kidnapper in The Hundred And One Dalmatians show at The Castle theatre in Wellingborough, seems lovely in real life, but seeing her in her Cruella hair and make-up was enough to scare me.
Sioned was just one of the team I met when I dropped into the theatre last week to find out how this classic story of Pongo, Missis and the theft of their adorable puppies has been brought to life on stage.
So what drew Sioned to the role of Cruella?
“Are you kidding?” she said, giving a deep laugh. “Wouldn’t you love to play Cruella?” Yes, actually I would. I would be rubbish at it, but I would.
Sioned said: “It is one of those great roles. I have never been a Juliet, I have always had a villain’s voice. There is a joy in creating this character and you have to ask the questions about her; the reason for the furs in this production is fashion. She is a weird cross between Patsy, from Ab Fab, and Shirley Bassey.”
One of the toughest behind-the-scenes roles has to be that of Gabriella Slade, who not only designed the costumes, but made them all, with the help of two assistants. This was no mean feat as, including 101 child ‘puppy’ characters, the sum total of the entire cast is about 130.
Each of the individual dogs is quirky and individual, with unique designs made up of black and white vintage fabrics. Gabriella said: “I knew the costumes had to be readable to a young audience, but they had to not be the traditional take on a dog, not a ‘onesie’. A lot of work had to go into finding the retro fabric.”
The sketched cartoon-style set was designed by Victoria Spearing. She said: “From a design point of view, we wanted to make sure we had something for every location. With act two we had to make sure it felt different from act one. We did the majority of the building in a three-week period. There were probably six of us working on the initial build and there were people who helped with the painting. We sourced a lot of the furniture and a lot of things are jumble shop finds which have been upcycled. A lot of people here have said ‘I think I might have that in my house’.”
The show is being directed by Luke Sheppard, fresh from working as associate director on the RSC’s West End production of Matilda.
Luke said: “The writer has been in preparation for about a year and I started six months ago. We started to find the children and we came to do workshops with them.
“It is a logistical, not a nightmare, but a challenge in that we have 101 children and we need to make sure everyone is doing the same thing. Sometimes it can be that children are just wheeled on to look sweet, but we celebrate them, they are part of the show and do a lot more than just people’s preconceptions of what children can do.
“It did not have so many songs in it, but we have written songs. We did not have a band so nine actors play instruments in the show, there is nothing better than having live music on the stage.”
The Hundred And One Dalmatians show will run until Saturday, December 28. For booking details, see www. thecastle.org.uk