Sourpuss couples viral-quality content with a nostalgic domesticity. Sourpuss has the flat-faced, displeased look of the infamous Grumpy Cat, the feline queen of the internet, resembling not only her physical features but her sulky demeanour. When Sourpuss makes such a nuisance of himself in his home that he is shooed outside, he enters a quintessential English country garden – a flower-filled idyll of wellies and plant pots and a vegetable patch. There – just like social media stars Fred the Labrador, the dog who adopted nine orphaned ducklings, that weasel who rode a woodpecker, and the polar bear and the husky caught on camera playing together – Sourpuss ends up embarking on (or, at the very least, enduring) unusual cross-species friendships.
From the worm in the soil to the bee buzzing through the air, the rubbish in the bin to the cabbages planted in a pot: much of what’s on stage is made from a soft, sort of downy material, so that the puppets and props are as warm and fuzzy as the feelings the show aims to induce in its audience. Sourpuss (designed and built by Keith Frederick) is, quite rightly, one of a kind: a spectacular, furry, ginger marionette puppet with an attitude problem. It’s hard to know what is more entertaining to watch: this full-sized cat slinking across the stage, or Lori Hopkins skilfully animating him.
Sonny Brazil’s music is instrumental (literally and figuratively) in creating the gentle atmosphere of the garden, in a show that is sweet, softly-spoken and slow-paced. Despite this, however, the garden can still feel removed: Sourpuss is an impressively ambitious production, but the demands of all its different elements – projection, puppetry, interaction – risk forfeiting the time and space to nurture the relationship with the audience.
Lori Hopkins’ Sourpuss is proof that whether on social media or the stage, animals flouting the food chain is evergreen material with a broad appeal.
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