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Review of Killing The Cat at Riverside Studios

It was when Maggie (Madelana Alberto) repeatedly expressed a wish to go home that I was finally in agreement with this quirky show. She does it so well that the performance was almost on a par with Michael Bublé’s ‘Home’ – the one that goes, “Let me go home / I’ve had my run, and baby, I’m done/ I gotta go home”. The production values are relatively high, which Oscar Cotran’s sound design ensuring every lyric could be heard clearly but without cranking up the volume to the max, a departure from the school of thought that says Very Loud must mean Very Good.

Killing The Cat Madalena Alberto, Joaquin Pedro Valdes, Molly Lynch, Tim Rogers Photo Danny Kaan.
Killing The Cat Madalena Alberto, Joaquin Pedro Valdes, Molly Lynch, Tim Rogers Photo Danny Kaan.

Maggie and her friend Sheila (Kluane Saunders) have gone to Livorno, Italy, despite the staging looking like non-specific every place. She meets Luke (Tim Rogers), and is immediately attracted to him – on paper, in the sense that opposites attract, a relationship is entirely possible, given her willingness to attend one of Luke’s group sessions about – well, I’m not sure what they were about, but they seemed to have a spiritual dimension to them, an acceptance of some sort of higher power without the trappings of organised religion.

Maggie’s own philosophy is highly steeped in science, with no room for blind faith: faith without evidence is a vice for her, but a virtue for Luke, so it’s left to Heather (Molly Lynch), a member of Luke’s group, to attempt to explain how science and faith can be complementary. Then there’s Connor (Joaquin Pedro Valdes), Heather’s companion-but-not-partner, who goes through some kind of existential crisis that isn’t (to the best of my recollection) fully resolved by curtain call. Connor seems very confused, which given how baffling this show is, is fair enough.

Various authors are cited by Heather, including Shakespeare and EM Forster, but this ambitious production gets bogged down in arguments and counter-arguments about the roles of faith and science in contemporary society – and, truth be told, it’s a discussion that, with all the bells and whistles of a musical, isn’t all that interesting. “I don’t do poetry, I do facts,” states Maggie – what does that even mean? There’s also ‘The Chemical Brain’, about how feelings such as happiness occur, explained at a breakneck pace – the speed of a Stephen Sondheim showtune but without the emotional depth. I wasn’t exactly humming any of the musical numbers on the Tube home.

There’s no real story,” a fellow theatregoer said to me at the interval (she and her companion did not return for the second half). Indeed, it was extremely difficult to feel invested in this unwieldy narrative, in which, ultimately, nobody has anything to lose whatever they decide. The three-piece on-stage band is, for some reason, dressed all in white, on a stage that is equally all in white, though the show as a whole is distinctly beige and disappointingly bland.

And why call a show Killing the Cat, in a nation of animal lovers? (I trust it is no spoiler alert to let you know there are no cats featured in this production.) Luke’s over-tendency to swear might be realistic, inasmuch as there are people who use the f-word with pointless regularity, but gets tedious very quickly. Joining the dots in this disparate musical proved impossible for me, and as for Heather citing EM Forster, it is a pity that his most famous quote, “Only connect,” is something that didn’t happen in this production.

2 gold stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

What happens when you’re falling for someone but don’t share their beliefs? What happens when you’re so sure you’re right you won’t move an inch? Does love stand a chance?

In the heady world of the Romantic Poets, scientific theories and certainties, can lust and love keep two polar opposites together beyond the first night?

‘Killing The Cat’ is a new transatlantic collaboration between an Anglo-American writing team and UK and US producers. With book and lyrics by ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ writer Warner Brown and music by radical American composer Joshua Schmidt, ‘Killing The Cat’ has its world première in London this spring, prior to Off-Broadway, directed by Jenny Eastop.

Madalena Alberto — Maggie
Molly Lynch – Heather
Tim Rogers – Luke
Kluane Saunders – Sheila/Paula
Joaquin Pedro Valdes – Connor

Creative Team:
Director Jenny Eastop
Movement Director Lucie Pankhurst
Set & Costume Designer Lee Newby
Lighting Designer Jamie Platt
Sound Designer Oscar Cotran
Musical Director Billy Bullivant
Arrangements Joshua Schmidt
Orchestrations and Additional Arrangements Jen Green
Casting Director Danielle Tarento
Produced by Mercurius Theatre, S&S Theatre Productions and Kent Nicholson

Killing The Cat
Book and Lyrics Warner Brown
Music Joshua Schmidt
Director Jenny Eastop

Riverside Studios
101 Queen Caroline Street
London, W6 9BN
17 March – 22 April 2023

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