This poem has had pan- generational appeal since it was written in 1957 by Dr Theodore Seuss. Its combination of rhyme, rhythm, fun and mischief captivating children, and their parents.
Adapting the original poem has been a labour of love for Katie Mitchell, who road –tested the project on her four year old daughter, an idea guinea-pig, as the production is aimed at the three to six year old age group. Mitchell enjoys a controversial reputation as both the best director of her generation and cultural vandal, tearing up the works of Handel and Chekhov, then reconstructing them.
This new production is directed by Lillie Collier, designed by David Shields and produced by Paul Taylor-Mills Ltd. It is presented through special arrangement with Josef Weinberger Plays Ltd on behalf of Music Theatre International (MTI). Vicki Mortimer’s designs are faithful to the simple original illustrations, and the lively recorded score by Paul Clark adds much to the production.
Mitchell’s approach to the Cat in the Hat has been tempered by the forensically controlling rights holders, Dr Seuss’s Estate, ensuring that the story we all remember, and introduce to our children, is the story brought to the stage. Mitchell bravely produces each page as a self- contained scene. This has the advantage of fleshing out the story as each series of actions is acted out, but the disadvantage that the rhyming narrative rhythm of the story is broken up, occasionally feeling a little disjointed as a consequence
The joyful narrative is a delight, performed by six actors, amidst a riot of colour and physical excitement as giant balloons roll around the stage, and fly into the audience. When the Cat and Things 1 and 2 charge into, and in and out, of the audience, the children squealed with delight.
Naturally the Cat is the star, complete with towering, flipperty-flopperty hat, creating mayhem for home- alone Sally and her brother. Thing One and Thing two ably assist the Cat. All the children loved it, laughing along and maintaining concentration throughout a fairly brief show of around forty five minutes with no interval.
The reply to the closing question asking the children whether they would tell their mother of the chaos that had unfolded with the Cats’ visit if they had been Sally and her brother was a resounding “No!”
A first class, well-produced, and well –acted, children’s theatre piece. The modest turn out, following a cancelled matinee was a shame. The Garrick now has many one and two- nighters. As a result, promotional space is slight to non-existent in a non-virtuous circle, and no programmes were made available to acknowledge the hard working production team on the day.
The show runs till 19th April then continues on tour.
This review first appeared in Behind the Arras, abridged, where a comprehensive collection of reviews from the best of Midlands Theatre, from a range of reviewers, is available.