‘Cats’ production purr-fection
Napier Municipal Theatre
Directed by Gillian Davies
Reviewed by Amanda Jackson
This show has soul. It has an emotional content that is carried by each and every participant who has interpreted words from a sheet that rhyme, and a score that is beautiful into something affecting.
The packed and informative programme, its superior design and brilliant photography, was the first clue to what was to follow. The initial impact was a curious mix of minute detail and anticipation. The orchestra and additional voices are behind the set, unseen, but their contribution is enormous.
It’s the best musical accompaniment, the most evocative and haunting melodic episodes I’ve heard at the Municipal Theatre. In a multi-dimensional show, the orchestra, led by Tony Ferner, full of seriously good musicians, laid a moving platform upon which the story of Cats unfolded.
Close observation of actual cats was reflected in the dance and different characterisation of various cats was worked into individual performances. Briar Horrocks’ exciting choreography asked much of her dancers in terms of creativity and expression as well as degrees of difficulty but the result is a splendidly, endlessly interesting spectacle. One where, at no time, did any one cat, fall out of character. A more talented troupe has probably never been assembled in the Bay.
TS Eliott’s poetry tells a story and in this version the words are paramount. Karen Briggs’ work with singers who were dancing, singers who were in a choir and singers who were acting, was a monumental effort that worked a treat, and literally sang the story to an audience who were enthralled. Everywhere there was something to see, something lovely, funny, sweet or clever to watch.
The special effects were robust and charming and perfectly executed. The velvety costumes, an innovative touch of genius from a tactile, visual and practical point of view, rendered the cats deliciously strok-able.
Some performances were truly outstanding, where every tiny nuance meant something. Linstead Castle-Allen as Growltiger was superb, Rachel Doohan was an adorable, snuggly white kitten who moved beautifully, Tracy Van Der Zwet as Grizabella had exactly the right voice and gave true integrity to the beautiful song Memories. William Winitana, as ever, was lovely, and the other character cats and dancers all gave something more than simply a performance, but something admirable and touching, something that their director Gillian Davies would have asked of them.
There are extras, from before the beginning to after the end, that delight and surprise.
This production of Cats is full of those details that bear the hallmark of a director who misses nothing and gives everything its full attention, and who has pulled together one of the best known and loved collections of poems and produced a coherent drama with sadness and humour, change and optimism, that is utterly unforgettable.
Photo caption – CREATIVE: Rachel Doohan as the white kitten Victoria is held aloft during one of the numbers on the opening night of Cats.
HBTODAY PICTURE: WARREN BUCKLAND