Review: The Cat in the Hat. Curve Theatre (Studio)

If you believe in Christmas magic, the purrrfect present awaits you on stage at The Cat in the Hat, Curve Theatre, Leicester. This chaotic cacophony of feline frivolity will light up the dullest winter day, entertain the ‘little angels’ and their grown-ups, and remind you of the bonkers, unbridled joy of being a child with no limits to your imagination.

The world of Dr Seuss, as seen in all 45 of the books he wrote and illustrated, is beyond the everyday. It is the land of fantasy, a place where there are no rules, and creativity is celebrated purely for itself and what can be discovered. Suba Das, Associate Director at the Curve, directs this with obvious delight and in association with the National Centre for Circus Arts, which gives a clue as to what might be involved. Together, they have captured the wonderfully anarchic world of Dr Seuss and brought the pages of the book to life.

The young audience is firstly introduced to Sally (Melissa Lowe) and her brother (Sam Angell), who are whining that ‘The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play’. With very charming performances, some peer pressure and a quick round of water pistols, the boggle-eyed spectators are immediately involved in the playfulness. The children spend time ‘playing’ inside – the pointless, aimless, rambling sort of play where you can’t settle to one thing – which nicely sets up a period of boredom, enabling the crazy Cat in the Hat to make an entrance.

The Cat, a mysterious, aristocratic sort of creature played with great style by Nana Amoo-Gottfried, suggests games they can play and demonstrates his magical abilities whilst balancing a ridiculous pile of assorted items and standing on a ball. Meanwhile, the Fish, an operatic princess with a golden gown of shimmering satin scales, urges the children to behave and the Cat to leave. And in that moment, an idea of pure joy is formed – the Goldfish & the Cat do a Tango. Of course. Charley Magalit entirely convinces as the conformist fish and has our sympathy when she can only watch from her teapot, drinking cocktails and reading books about meditation to keep her calm. (We did say it was bonkers).

The levels of havoc and mayhem crescendo with the introduction of Thing 1 (Celia Francis) and Thing 2 (Robert Penny) – tumbling, spinning, random balls of energy with blue hair. Their acrobatic antics come from the circus of daring-do – where living room walls are for climbing and somersaults are a way of shaking hands. The helter-skelter fun continues to explode with parts of the set becoming springboards for further shenanigans.

This roller-coaster of a story is held together by the very beautifully illustrated set designed by Isla Shaw – based on Dr Seuss’ own artworks but produced in 3D and alive with its own secrets. There is original music and songs written by Tasha Taylor Johnson, which provides a suitably unpredictable soundscape which is both mystical and comedic and includes songs subtly woven into the storyline. Apart from ‘What a Shame’, which is an over-the-top schmaltzy ballad, which the Cat is allowed to totally milk (ba boom tish).

The Cat in the Hat is a riotous romp, fizzing with energy and full of all that is bright and free and open to possibility. A turbulent world full of colour and contradiction, where Sally the scientist cooks the books, and her brother wears fairy wings and catches imaginary creatures in an over-sized net. It is anarchic and bonkers and absolutely as Dr Seuss would have imagined in his wildest dreams.

Run: 8th December to 12th January 2019 at Curve, then at Rose Theatre Kingston

 

An inspired poetic extra from our reviewer.

The Cat in the Hat? There’s a play about that!

If you’ve got the nerve, go see it at Curve.

When you make a wish, you’ll see a fine fish

And a juggling cat with a ginormous hat!

There are Things that wreak havoc, Thing 2 and Thing 1.

It’s a crazy concoction but great family fun!

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