Belgrade theatre, Coventry
This sassy, campy off-Broadway hit about women seeking younger lovers is not exactly heavy on plot, but it has plenty of buzz and bite
he recent proliferation of websites called such things as Cougar Dating, Meet a Cougar and Cougarflirt do not indicate a sudden desire to become intimate with a rare species of North American puma; rather it’s the acceptance of a term that implies an older woman seeking a relationship with a younger man.
Donna Moore’s musical developed out of a solo cabaret act. In fact it started life as a single joke: “Why are we giving a woman a derogatory name for dating a younger man, when the name for a man who dates younger women is – I’ve researched it – a man?”
The show created a huge off-Broadway buzz, and it’s not hard to see why: it has all the sass, strident characterisation and slightly camp underlay essential for a genuine cult phenomenon, even if it is a bit like watching a musical version of Sex and the City in which everyone plays Samantha.
At least the three women in the British premiere, directed with a sophisticated air of Manhattan cocktail-hour cool by Patricia Benecke, are vigilant against lapsing into stereotype. Pippa Winslow is winsome as Lily, a recently divorced children’s party entertainer dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (“It’s popular with gay couples who adopt”); Dawn Hope plays a high-flying professor of women’s studies who finds herself hastily revising her thesis; and Suanne Braun is a good-time southern girl who comes to New York to open a singles bar for older women, which she refers to as her “den of antiquity”.
Even Barnaby Hughes manages to put some flesh on the male roles, despite playing every ounce of meat the women want to get their claws into. The plot is paper thin, but if you take it as a sequence of genuinely witty and insightful cabaret turns, it’s fair to say that Cougar the Musical has bite.
• At Belgrade theatre until 6 June. Box office: 024-7655 3055.