Review: The Cat in the Hat

February 10, 2010

The Cat in the Hat

Based on the books by Dr Seuss, Katie Mitchel directs The Cat in the Hat in an action packed adventure of a naughty cat who comes to play with two children who are bored one rainy day. This childrens show is simply superb in its entertainment for children and adults alike, delivering a fast paced bouncing and eye popping performance.

There are so many parts of Mitchel’s production that can be praised. Firstly it delivers pure entertainment for children in a short but sweet burst of 35 minutes (I’m sure that some people would relish more). Secondly it has a design that fits so perfectly with the original book that it makes me wonder if the illustrations hadn’t come to life themselves to perform. Thirdly, the sound and music is cheeky and brilliantly executed.

Mitchel has brought together a team of creatives who deserve the sell out shows that The Cat in the Hat is receiving from their National Theatre to Young Vic transfer. Vicki Mortimer’s design takes on a cartoon effect that is portrayed in all the props and costume. Paul Clark and Gareth Fry’s Music/Sound Design combined puts the piece in a world of it’s own. Coupled with the wacky direction from Katie Mitchel, The Cat in the Hat is stunning.

Thing 1, and Thing 2

The production borders on extreme chaos and something of a nightmare, which would explain why children love it, (and in some cases leave crying!). It is completely absurd and without a doubt wacky, but this only makes it more enjoyable.

The cast manage to keep up with this fast paced piece, hitting all the humour that the show needs. They are equally receptive to the younger audiences, playing upon their interjections and laughter. Angus Wright as the Cat in the Hat is seductive and humorous in his portrayal of the mischievous cat. Luisa and Sandra Guerreiro are brilliantly freakish as Thing 1 and Thing 2. There is nothing more frightful than an energetic pair of twins wearing red jump suits and blue wigs.

It’s good to see a production that has followed completely with a theme, that is reflected in all aspects – design, sound, direction and acting. Children’s theatre needs to be bold, engaging and above all enjoyable for those little spectators. The Cat in the Hat ticks all the right boxes, and includes some real mouth opening moments, especially during a balancing act of a fish, umbrella, plates, cups, books, milk tray, little red ship all balancing whilst the cat stands proudly on a ball. Brilliant!

The Cat in the Hat is another great example at showing how imaginative and engaging childrens theatre can be, even for those of us who aren’t quite children anymore.

The Cat in the Hat is playing at the Young Vic until 13th March. Tickets are very limited so queuing for returns is the best way of getting tickets. See the website for more details.

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Review: The Fahrenheit Twins, Told by an Idiot

November 23, 2009

The Fahrenheit Twins by Told by an Idiot

Told by an Idiot, the collective theatre duo of Hayley Carmichael, and Paul Hunter (not forgetting John Wright dished on the side) are back in full force with a new piece, The Fahrenheit Twins currently playing as part of the Bite programme at the Barbican Pit Theatre. Bringing together their adaptation of Michel Faber’s book of the same name, Told by an Idiot along with director Matthew Dunster have created a surreal landscape of snow, a childs playground.

There is something quite striking about The Fahrenheit Twins when first entering the Pit Theatre. There is no way of missing Naomi Wilkinson’s set design, a circular rotating disc of white fabric and fur, complete with a slide that reaches to the heights of the lighting rig. A wind turbine off to one side that reaches from ground to ceiling. The expanse of fur and white, it’s like something out of a muted Salvador Dali painting. Coupled with Gareth Fry’s frolicking playful music, it’s all something of a winter wonderland.

A slightly surreal moment, the husky experience

I suppose that is exactly how Told by an Idiot want us to view this piece, through the goggles of a surreal storytelling of two twins, Tainto’lilth and Marko’cain who live with their parents deep in the Artic in an exploration station. The twins are played by Carmichael and Hunter, along with every other character. They change swiftly from parents to child, to animal with a slight change of costume and a different voice. The effect is actually quite impressive for something so simple.

There are undoubtedly some poignant moments throughout this piece, but there was something nagging away at me as I watched this. I know that Told by an Idiot are a superb theatre company, with a great track record. The set design and music, along with Philip Gladwell’s lighting design all combined to make for a spectacle of the eyes and ears, so it wasn’t this aspect nagging at me. It was rather, Carmichael and Hunter’s performance itself. Whilst the piece itself is an intriguing tale – its execution didn’t quite live up to what was expected.

The playground experience of theatre

The peformance of The Fahrenheit Twins didn’t flat line, it wasn’t dead and emotionless, but it lacked some kind of energy. Certain moments became repetitive and at times I didn’t quite understand what or even why this was being shown. Particularly the continual use of the husky masks. Whilst at times comic, during other moments it became over-done. Don’t get me wrong, The Fahrenheit Twins is to some extent an enjoyable piece, but one to stick in my mind for a long time? No, I think not.

Told by an Idiot under the direction of Dunster have created a playful piece, where the performers really do create a winter wonderland out of Wilkinson’s set, which has been designed in a multi-functional way, compartments dotted across the stage hiding most of the props and added surprises.

Sliding across the stage and manipulating fabric into the form of their dead mother, the tale is actually quite heart warming. The twins wanting to find a way to bury their dead mother, head into the Artic with the hope that there will be a sign from somewhere as to what they are meant to do. Throwing themselves against the elements of the Artic weather, their support for each other and their maturity in desperate times is lovingly shown by Carmichael and Hunter.

Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter

If you’re looking to see devised theatre that doesn’t quite enter the world of nonsense but equally creates a surreal landscape and story, then The Fahrenheit Twins is certainly for you. In fact, I’d implore anyone who is interested in a different theatre night out to embark on Told by an Idiot’s new piece. I’ve not been put off but excited by what will come next out of this company.

The Fahrenheit Twins by Told by an Idiot is running until 5th December 2009. Check out the Barbican website for details on booking and also Told by an Idiot’s website for past shows and company information.