Sally and the Boy are home alone with their Fish, when a tail pokes through the door and gives a great swish …
The Cat in the Hat is a Dr Seuss piece of rhyme, colour, and a bit of anarchy. This stage production, directed by Lillie Collier and designed by David Shields, is based on the National Theatre’s Cottesloe production of ten years ago, and is the third show to be staged at the new Turbine Theatre.
The design is sharply evocative of book illustrations, with line drawings, revolving shelves, and splashes of colour. Jonsthsn Ray’s Cat is more of a Terry-Thomas than a bringer of chaos, and it took him a while to click with the young audience, but I liked his portrayal.
Sally (Grace Miller) has to be both involved in the slapstick and concerned about its outcome, and I really felt this: Miller also expertly manipulated the puppet fish and provided its nannyish voice. The role of the Boy is complicated by the actor (Nick Brittain) also playing a second character, Thing 2, and so disappearing from a large part of the narrative. A shame, I felt.
The rhyme of Dr Seuss is a large part of his charm – mostly delivered with the required sing-song delivery, but the material feels a little thin at times, and this production wants to take more risks with the anarchy and slapstick to pull in its audience of three and above. They loved Cat’s scooter, and the ball game, but more mess and use of the audience aisle might have been even more effective (I loved the bubbles which came down early on).
With superb sound design from Stacey Sandford and a fun climbing/balancing trick from the Cat, the fifty minutes this show runs went quickly and seemed to please its target audience. For me I just wanted the Cat in the Hat to be a bit more naughty, and for the Kitten (Vinesh Veerasami at this performance) to have more to do, like Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Photo credits Garry Lake. The Cat in the Hat continues at the Turbine until 11 January, playing at 10.30 and 12.30, with an additional 3pm performance on 27 December (no 10.30 performance) and 3 January.
The Turbine Theatre has come a long way since its launch earlier this year. Prior to this performance I managed to chat briefly to artistic director and show producer Paul Taylor-Mills.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support received over the past four months. It’s been incredible to get to know audiences. We’ve had a play, Torch Song, a musical, High Fidelity, and now a kids show. The Turbine should become a destination place and I look forward to its future.”Interview with Paul Taylor-Mills, 12 December 2019
I think Paul should be incredibly proud of the Turbine, which is a credit to him and his team. My thanks to him for taking time from his busy schedule to talk.
This was my first visit since the launch – I’m back next week for a concert – and already I feel at home in the friendly atmosphere under the arches at Circus West Village (which can be reached by boat to Battersea Pier or buses which stop at Chelsea Gate, Battersea Park: it’s a short walk down to the Riverside).
A hearty welcome to London’s busy fringe theatre scene. May the Turbine continue “powering the imagination” for some years yet.