BWW Review: THE CAT IN THE HAT, Rose Theatre
Curve Productions, at Rose Theatre in Kingston, have teamed up with the National Circus Training Academy to create a magical adaptation of Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat.
Isla Shaw's set is beautiful - immediately striking on entering the theatre. It's like falling into the pages of a storybook. And it gets better and better as you realise it's been built to be climbed on, jumped through and swung from.
The costume design is sweet. The Cat's get-up is reminiscent of something from Cats. Boy is very colourful, but Sally's costume change halfway doesn't really make sense and her Act II outfit would have been fine throughout.
The Fish is really something to behold! The costume is a feast for the eyes and the bowl is created by Charley Magalit zorbing around the stage. The interchanges between prop-Fish and person-Fish are clever.
Keep an eye on Magalit, even when she is not part of the main action. A highlight for adults in the audience is watching her "drink like a fish" in the corner.
There are a few touches like this, to keep parents entertained. Mostly, it's throwaway comments that children won't notice but will resonate with grown-ups.
The production is very interactive, with games to play, songs to sing, and dances to join in with. For the most part, the whole family gets up and gets involved. It's also immersive, with kids loving the bubbles, water blasters, and characters running through the auditorium.
The audience response is perhaps the most charming part of the production. There are shrieks of delight and giggles throughout, often born of sheer excitement, rather than directly in response to the performance.
Whispers of "That's impossible," and "What happened?" are testament to how captive the young audience is.
Celia Francis and Robert Penny are perfect as the Things. They look great, their vocalisations are on point and they are very impressive to watch. Their energetic tumbling about the stage really evokes otherworldly mischief.
Other characters' physicality is also great. Melissa Lowe, as Sally, throws her whole body into every movement. Sam Angell, playing Boy, is so committed he is left with realistically red, muddy knees by the end of the show.
Nana Amoo-Gottfried's Cat stands out as he is more dance-y than acrobatic. His trickery on top of a giant ball will make anyone in the audience hold their breath. Though it's unreasonable to expect him to "hop up and down on the ball", it is a little disappointing when he is unable to get his foot up in the air.
While all the performers are wonderful to look at, their singing voices are a bit weak. Transitions between higher and lower registers are clunky for Lowe and Magalit. Amoo-Gottfried's voice is unremarkable. Also, it's not always easy to decipher what any of them are saying.
This isn't helped by the sound, with the music and sound effects too loud. The microphones don't give performers enough of a boost.
The lack of clarity is a shame as the book is lovely. It's funny, heart-warming and has some beautiful sentiments woven in, but a lot of it risks getting lost.
As an experience of going to a play, The Cat in the Hat is excellent for families. It starts with the expert ushers making sure everyone is in their seats seamlessly. Booster cushions are provided for the smallest children and sightlines in the theatre are good - everyone can see.
The length is ideal for the young target audience, even if, as an adult fan of the story, it could be twice as long. There are even toys to play with in the café at the interval. There's an opportunity in each half to get up and move around too, which helps the little ones to concentrate. In fact, they manage to stay rapt for the whole show - sitting still, watching and taking it all in.
There's a lot to love about Suba Das's production. The world created on stage is stunning and the play itself is charming. There is no doubt that kids will enjoy it and families will have a lot of fun together. Unfortunately, it lacks a little polish and doesn't quite live up to its huge potential.
Photo: Manuel Harlan