“Foster and Lams communicate this physical and emotional closeness with heartbreaking conviction”
Everybody needs a little escape from the ordinariness of life once in a while. But how long do you get until life starts to creep back in?
Nadia and Daniel are just starting out together. They’re at the good bit, at the beginning when everything is fun and exciting; they’re kind to each other, they feel passionately about one another. And they’re both married. Rather than telling the story of the people waiting at home, Kenny Emson takes the road less travelled and instead explores the emotional toll for those within the affair.
From the very beginning this relationship is doomed to beget pain and anguish. Even as Nadia and Daniel agree on eleven rules (“one better than God”) in order to protect themselves, they almost immediately start breaking them. But what is most touching and unusual about this story is the palpable affection they have for one another. We know that both parties have oblivious partners and innocent children; that they’re constantly lying to the people they love, but somehow, we’re still rooting for them.
Stripping it back to a pile of pillows and a few neon lights, Eleanor Rhode’s direction leans mostly on good story-telling and strong performances from both Jon Foster (Daniel) and Claire Lams (Nadia). We’re privy to the kinds of unabashed conversations you’d have only in the seclusion of the bedroom, but Foster and Lams communicate this physical and emotional closeness with heartbreaking conviction.
That being said, the design (Max Johns) is deceptively simple, the white stack of pillows providing a hiding place for multiple small but instrumental accessories to the narrative. Neon lighting (Jess Bernberg) hanging vertically serves to alter the mood drastically throughout the play, taking us from candle-lit intimacy to bare-bulb severity.
Though the entire story takes place in a small one-bed flat, the narrative scope is huge. An understated tragedy, beautifully written and well executed.
“a cabaret of excitement and a fabulous family romp”
As the Dr Seuss classic has entertained the minds of young readers for half a century, this Rose Theatre Kingston and Curve co-production of The Cat in the Hat (originally adapted by Katie Mitchell) has a lot to live up to. So how do you translate the unique writing style of such a celebrated artist to stage? Throw in an abundance of acrobatics, a plethora of singalong songs and a water gun or two and you have got a spectacle that will keep the under fives transfixed.
The story we all know and love is that of two children whose miserable rainy day is thankfully interrupted by a cat, in a hat of all garments. While trying to entertain Sally (Melissa Lowe) and her little brother, the cat in the hat (Nana Amoo-Gottfried) gets up to all sorts of tricks and chaos ensues. Standout performances are Sam Angell as Boy, Sally’s incongruously Scottish yet harmlessly endearing little brother and Charley Magalit as the ever bubbly and surprisingly operatic Fish. With direction from Curve’s Associate Director Suba Das, the second half revs up the pacing to fourth gear when Thing 1 and Thing 2 (Celia Francis and Robert Penny) bamboozle the crowd with seemingly infinite combinations of attractive acrobatics.
The clever design of The Cat in the Hat (Isla Shaw) repeatedly takes the audience by surprise with imaginative costume choices and a cleverly camouflaged, movable set, that plays host to a range of elements bursting out, popping up and dangling all over the place. The beautifully oversized, cartoon backdrop, inspired by Ted Geisel’s original illustrations (with every prop giving a nod to the fifty-two year old publication), is set with angles and colourful lighting that reads like a book.
Performance teeters on the edge of pantomime as each character in turn asks the boys and girls (and grownups) to stand up and call out before, during and after each interactive number. Although this musical is filled with fun fantastical compositions from Tasha Taylor Johnson, most of the melodies are quite forgettable considering the rhyming genius of the source lyrics.
The Cat in the Hat is a cabaret of excitement and a fabulous family romp, albeit some way off the purrfect execution of a page to stage adaptation that one might hope for.
Reviewed by Vivienne King
Photography by Manuel Harlan
The Cat in the Hat
Rose Theatre Kingston until 21st April completing UK Tour