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The Cat in The Hat at The Curve Theatre Leicester

Celia Francis (Thing 1) and Robert Penny (Thing 2) The Cat in the Hat - Curve Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston.
Celia Francis (Thing 1) and Robert Penny (Thing 2) The Cat in the Hat – Curve Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston.

When it comes to theatrical adaptations of books, it is often necessary to condense the original text down to fit comfortably within the reasonable timeframe for a show. Quite an extreme example of this is Les Misérables – the Victor Hugo novel is well over a thousand pages long. But it doesn’t take very long at all to read The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) – it being an illustrated children’s book, I found myself spending almost as much time looking at the drawings that went with the text as I did whilst reading the story itself.

The set (Isla Shaw) is designed very much like a cartoon strip, convincing enough to catch some of the younger members of the audience by surprise when the stage lights actually lit up, or when a door was used as a door. But if the stage looked a bit two-dimensional, the acting was anything but. To be fair, the first-person narrator in the book isn’t assigned a name. Even so, the show could have come up with something other than Boy (Sam Angell).

Anyway, is children’s theatre ahead of the game when it comes to portraying girls in a realistic manner, leaving ‘grown-up’ theatre playing catch-up? Sally (Melissa Lowe) is portrayed as an intellectual student with a keen eye for chemistry, but there is virtually nothing, in terms of gender bias, to otherwise distinguish her from Boy, in a show where generous amounts of water are sprayed around courtesy of water guns, and both siblings must grapple with the relatively anarchic goings-on that occur after Cat (Nana Amoo-Gottfried) arrives.

Some audience participation, clearly aimed at the children in the audience, involves doing some actions to the ‘Rain, Rain Go Away’ nursery rhyme. This was immediately followed by a scene with about as much spoken dialogue as an episode of ‘Mr Bean’. Still, proceedings are hardly difficult to follow, especially as hand gestures sometimes accompanied dialogue. The costume for Cat is rather brilliant, the one for Fish (Charley Magalit) rather less so – that said, if anyone else has a better idea than the one this production has for a talking fish, I’d love to see it in action.

It’s not long before copies of the Seuss book come out, and sections of it are read out by Boy and Sally. The show makes excellent use not only of the performance space, but of the theatre space, with characters often running out into the aisles (for miscellaneous reasons) in such a way that I started to wonder if this show would have been better off as an ‘in-the-round’ production. Amoo-Gottfried’s Cat demonstrates some applause-worthy moves in a balancing feat, and the arrival of Thing 1 (Celia Francis) and Thing 2 (Robert Penny) leads up to the show’s most energetic scenes. But then the apparent arrival of Boy and Sally’s mother, presumably from work, isn’t quite the scary moment it perhaps ought to have been.

Aside from that, though, it’s suitably messy, until (possible spoiler alert) it all gets cleaned up. It was pleasing to see so many children interacting with the show, shouting and screaming their replies. A delightful and highly energetic adaptation.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Playing at Curve in Leicester over Christmas 2018, this family production is created in association with the National Centre for Circus Arts and will feature Nana Amoo-Gottfried (A Winter’s Tale, Theatre for Younger Audiences at The National Theatre) as the show’s chaotic Cat, while actor and opera singer Charley Magalit (Mickey and the Wondrous Book, Walt Disney Company) will play the role of the fearful Fish.

Joining the cast as the children whose house the Cat visits are Sam Angell (Billy Elliot – the Musical, Victoria Palace Theatre) as the Boy and Melissa Lowe (Me and My Girl, Chichester Festival Theatre) as Sally. Completing the company as the Cat’s energetic companions Thing 1 & Thing 2 are acrobats Celia Francis and Robert Penny.

Production Team
Adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell
Director – Curve’s Associate Director Suba Das
Designer – Isla Shaw
Composer – Curve Associate Artist Tasha Taylor Johnson
Lighting Designer – Zoe Spurr
Sound Designer – David Gregory
Associate Director – Jack Horner
Casting Director – Kay Magson CDG

Cast:
Nana Amoo-Gottfried
Sam Angell
Celia Francis
Melissa Lowe
Charley Magalit
Robert Penny

Tour listings
Curve, Leicester
8 Dec 2018 – 12 Jan 2019
www.curveonline.co.uk

Aylesbury Waterside
31 Jan – 3 Feb 2019

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