Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Theatre 2014: Review Twelve

Cats. Theatre Royal Norwich. April 2014.

Although my love of theatre did start a while ago with musicals (a trip to see Les Miserables at 13 was my first West End experience) it has been a while since I've seen one of the 'big' musicals.

I know a few of the famous songs from the score but apart from knowing that they were adaptations of T S Eliot's poems Old Possums Book of Practical Cats I didn't know how it worked as a narrative stage production.

And to be honest at the end of the first half I still didn't, the opening overture had been great and the end of the act with Memory was wonderful but I had absolutely no clue what was going on.  It didn't help that the theatre was excessively hot and concentrating on a story told in the medium of modern dance was hard work.

A flick through the programme in the interval and a stronger story arc helped in the second act and the staging of Skimbleshank the Railway Cat's story was wonderful and so inventive and by the end I was mostly won over. However I do wonder if this was a musical of its time and that it is only the name that keeps it selling out - a bit like The Mousetrap.

Several thoughts went through my mind during the production:

  • how come I can completely suspend disbelief when watching either War Horse or Swan Lake but at no point could I see cats in the people on stage.
  • when you notice how clever the set it over the performers then there is something missing.
  • how rude the cast were in not acknowledging the orchestra at the end of the performance.
  • what an amazing voice the understudy Griselda had - better than some of the cast recordings I've heard with real stars.
I'm pleased we went, and I don't think I've become anti-musical since studying theatre in more depth but this wasn't quite for me.

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