There is a careful negotiation to be made with the staging of a childhood book – the balancing act of revelling in childhood nostalgia whilst making it fresh for contemporary audiences alike. Unfortunately, The Cat in the Hat failed to achieve either. Following the tale of two siblings who are forced to play inside on a horrible and rainy day, Dr. Seuss’ tale is a joyous exploration of the innocent chaos that erupts with the visit of the Cat – a hat-wearing, mess-creating feline visitor – and his two accomplices in crime: the boisterous and uncontrollable Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Isla Shaw’s set design is instantly striking; taking the form of a large house interior, crafted in the iconic pseudo-illustrative aesthetic of Dr. Seuss’ books. It is a charismatic nod to the marvellous worlds of Seussville, but the harshness of its black and white tonality clash with the otherwise vibrant action of the plot.
Sally and the Boy - played by Melissa Lowe and Sam Angell, respectively – are endearing, but are deflated by an ill-fitting original score. Though Tasha Taylor Johnson’s songs come with their own merit, they land above the level of a younger audience; with few motifs carrying through to bind the production together.
Nana Amoo-Gottfried has a difficult job in portraying the Cat – a role hard to separate from personal interpretation and Mike Myers’s extravagant performance in the 2003 film – and manages to make the role his own. However, the slow-paced and erratic dialogue afford him no justice and his vocal style does not conform to that intended by the score.
The suspenseful arrival of Thing 1 and Thing 2 holds a great deal of potential, but is ultimately unsatisfying as a lacklustre representation of supposed anarchy. Acrobats Celia Francis and Robert Penny are evidently talented - with some of their gravity-defying stunts affording moments of grin-inducing disbelief – but the overdrawn routines in which they run around the stage with their hands in the air make for neither use nor ornament.
A production where everything works, but nothing quite fits.