I wonder how far Katie Mitchell's four-year-old daughter Edie appreciates that it's not everybody's mother who can devise a theatrical Christmas treat for you – one which can also be shared with friends and paying guests of all ages in the country's leading venue.
And I wonder at what point this little girl will start to realise that probably no other director in Britain apart from her mother could have concocted a stage world so transportingly delightful or of such consistency in comic, behavioural, visual, musical, and choreographic terms.
The Cat in the Hat develops as magically witty, cutting-edge theatre one of Dr Seuss's beloved, rhyming learn-to-read books. The look of this version is at once deeply beautiful and laugh-out-loud dotty. The walls and floor of the house are the same sea-blue that is the dominant colour of the books and the same palette of red, black and white is employed for the clothes and the furnishings. Delectably, the movement is flat and lateral as though the little boy and girl (charmingly incarnated by the young adult actors, Helena Lymbery and Mark Arends) are being hurled right and left by a tyrannical gale. They whizz on and off with the cut outs that indicate indoors and outdoors as though inhabiting a bulgy page.
Angus Wright is hilarious perfection as the eponymous feline. With the ineffable snootiness of an Etonian toff, he's a parent's worse nightmare: a Bad Influence who scandalises through insouciant fun. The epic balancing tricks he performs in the book are here, ahem, counterbalanced by his hijinks in the sound and music department (tennis rackets turn into both banjos and violins; balls don't just drop, but splat, as they obey a bananas variant of the law of gravity). Best of all is Mitchell's reconceiving of the goldfish, who is a Cubist mix of airborne pink glove puppet and a goggles-and-tail-sporting Justin Salinger as actor/puppeteer. In one interpolated sequence, we enter the character's goldfish-bowl universe, in which he's forever blowing bubbles from a nifty little device.
The music is, like the show itself, a beguiling blend of the simple and the sophisticated. Would you tell your parents of your adventures with Cat? Apart from a lone voice that confessed he wouldn't, most of the audience yelled support for honesty. Kids these days! Too well brought up for their own good...
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