WHO would have thought everyone's favourite Disney classic could be revived on stage? And with puppets as puppies? I was sceptical too, writes Emily Collis

But Birmingham REP's adaptation of Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians is no less mesmerising than if there were 101 live dogs littering the stage.

From the dozen-or-so Dalmatians to Cruella de Vil's sassy pet cat, Jimmy Grime’s puppet creations are unique and utterly charming - and you almost stop noticing the people behind them.

That isn't to say that Oliver Wellington and Emma Thornett aren’t captivating as Pongo and Missus.

In fact, it is the puppeteers that make the animals so believable – even the cars are made up of actors, chugging and screeching across the stage.

There’s a lot going on, as the 14-strong cast are joined on stage by the band throughout.

But Jamie Vartan’s multi-layered design and James Frewer’s shifting soundscape help the story to flow swiftly, without seeming chaotic.

Still it’s Gloria Onitiri who steals the show with her REP debut as the fur-obsessed villain. Her musical numbers are fearfully powerful, yet she performs the role so skilfully that you can't help but boo at curtain call.

Debbie Isitt’s adaptation leaves you almost feeling sorry for the hypothermic crook, as she steals a litter of new-born puppies after taking a liking to their spotty coats.

With help from the Twilight Bark, a communication network of dogs across the country, Pongo and Missus set off to rescue their pups.

Children and adults alike are bound to be gripped by these inventive theatrical methods and immersive staging.

The much-loved tale might be an unusual choice for the theatre's Christmas production, but Walker's direction is surprisingly festive - a must-see for families and nostalgic kids-at-heart.

Visit birmingham-rep.co.uk for tickets.