The Cat in the Hat
Rose Theatre Kingston
Reviewed – 10th April 2019
“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
The Gruffalo’s Child
Reviewed – 24th November 2017
“the catchy songs get stuck in your head for hours after you’ve left the theatre”
Tall Stories’ latest production of The Gruffalo’s Child is heart-warming and the perfect family show for the run up to Christmas. The musical is adapted from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s book, and is the sequel to The Gruffalo. The story continues on from the first instalment, and this time follows the journey of the Gruffalo’s child, played by the wonderful Sophie Alice. She goes on a quest to find the Big Bad Mouse, and along the way meets all the characters we recognise from The Gruffalo: the snake, the owl, the fox and of course, the clever mouse.
The cast is made up of only three actors, but their energy fills the stage. They work extremely well together, and are perfectly in sync in all their actions. The show utilises a lot of physical theatre and this is only successful because of how well the actors work together. Catriona Mackenzie brings the character of the mouse alive, also acting as a narrator throughout. Sophie Alice as the Gruffalo’s child, captures the childlike energy of the character. Andrew Mudie is particularly impressive, playing four completely different animal characters, each with his own distinct accent and personality. He easily seizes the audience’s attention, even the youngest of children, and engages everyone in audience participation.
Composers Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw did a great job of transforming the short storybook into a musical. The music and lyrics are simple, but fitting to the show, and the catchy songs get stuck in your head for hours after you’ve left the theatre. Whilst some of the content can be considered a little dark, with the young Gruffalo threatening to eat all of the animals she meets, this is true to the original story and helps move the narrative along.
The set (Isla Shaw) is very simple, consisting of a few trees and rocks that get moved around the stage to create new settings, placing the entire focus on the fantastic trio of actors. There is the perfect balance of audience participation, and the show is interactive enough to keep young children entertained throughout. With a running time of only 55 minutes, Olivia Jacobs’ direction delivers a very fast paced, delightful one act show. The Gruffalo’s Child is perfect for anyone looking to take their children for a Christmas treat, especially if they are fans of The Gruffalo books.
Reviewed by Charlotte Cox
Photography by Toby Mitchell for Tall Stories
THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD
is at The Lyric Theatre until 7th January 2018