Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Cats - Free Rain

"Cats", notoriously, ran forever in the West End and Broadway (although it's now closed in both - its West End home now hosts "War Horse", its Broadway home has "Mamma Mia") and launched the solo career of Andrew Lloyd-Webber as a composer (also marking his break with Tim Rice after arguments about an alternate lyric for "Memory"). With lyrics coming from the safely-dead poet T.S. Eliot, direction from Royal Shakespeare Company regular Trevor Nunn (who also got credit, and royalties, for the "Memory" lyrics), choreography from Gillian Lynne and an oversized junkyard set from John Napier, it stuck around 21 years on Broadway and 18 in London.

And now, it's on at ANU Arts in a production by the increasingly Musical-Minded Free Rain company. How is it?

Well... it's "Cats". Which means, a disjointed series of solo spots dragged together by a bare semblance of a story, some incredibly cutesy rhymes, a lot of tune repetition, and a whole heap of nothing-very-much.

No, I don't love the material, how did you guess?

So with that dismissive comment about one of the longest running shows ever, how'd this production go (why did it run so long? Well, the logo is a very good looking logo indeed, plus it's probably a show that's equally incomprehensible to english speakers and non-english-speakers alike, thus making it a popular choice for tourists. and Memory is a damn emotional little earworm of a song)

Mostly, pretty reasonable. There's some quibbles (the choreography during the Jellicle Ball is a bit samey leading to it dragging, Roy Hukari's narrator "Munkustrap" doesn't appear to have an actual character to play beyond "I own a leather jacket and like telling stories about other cats", a couple of Mr Miestoffele's magic tricks are a bit obvious,  and Dave Collin's Growltiger costume shows off his genital region alarmingly...), but the cast is in good voice, the movement is pretty nice, the orchestra appears to know what the hell they're supposed to be playing , and generally the impression is made of a theatre company who can put on a show that is what it's supposed to be. 

Do I think it's the greatest thing seen in Canberra this year? No, of course not, it's still "Cats". But it's a nicely done version of "Cats".


  1. I for one thought that watching the young man who played Gus a masterclass in acting, and showed a tremendous amount of ability and intelligence. Both his voice and his physicality were utterly convincing. (He even kept the palsy every time I tried to sneakily check!) I think it speaks volumes that in a production that is predominantly founded on singing and dancing, the personal highlight for me came from a character who stayed still and told his story.
    The rest of the cast were brilliant performers, too. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteezer were spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed this production.

  2. Well, I'm a member of the cult-of-Ruffy, which is why I didn't particularly comment on him (excessive praise of personal friends being considered rude in the main body of a review... however, this is the comments, so I can go nuts!)

    I've been very impressed by the rise and rise of this talented young performer, particularly this year, with cleverly individuated performances on each show I've seen him in (his Bingley in "Pride and Prejudice" was openly warm and lovely, his two contrasting soldiers in "Breaker Morant" came across great as studies in nervous fear and blinding arrogance respectively, and his Gus and his Rumpus-Cat are both performed with absolute commitment). He's been a performer to watch out for, now he's simply one to watch. And enjoy.

    1. Thanks guys. It really is an ensemble show though. Also, Linda Gledhill is a spectacular performer to work alongside.