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.