29 November 2019

Serious play: Notes on 'Cats'

Cats. Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber; poetry: TS Eliot; choreography: Gillian Lynne. (The Theatre at Solaire, 28 November 2019)

I would say I'm eleven again but no, I'm a functioning adult having the time of her life watching humans pretend to be cats pretend to be mice pretend to do human things.

When people talk about Cats being a spectacle, they talk about the body as an instrument of speech; and the mind and its capacity for play — to rhyme and (un)reason, build a world so distinct yet continuous with the one we inhabit.

The musical is older than, and perhaps will outlive me. Since I saw it in 2010 (after seeing it a million times on DVD), nothing much has changed, because nothing really should. My only complaint is the absence of Growltiger's Last Stand. What makes me book a seat is the chance to hear the live orchestra. Last night, however, I was moved by the dance (my brother was the first to point out its brilliance to me) and found a new appreciation for make-up artists and costume designers.

Though touted as a mega-musical — and I'd wager that musicians, poets, and choreographers would attest to the level of its craftsmanship — Cats doesn't act big or clever. It doesn't think that it's better than you. The show starts and you're part of the Jellicle universe.

It's as serious as serious play goes. It's that feeling of losing yourself, free of any sense of meaning or utility, and other such things that weigh us down.

Jellicle Cats messing up with the audience during intermission.


1) Joanna Ampil's Grizabella gave me something I rarely experience: goose bumps.

2) Speaking of Grizabella, I realize that she's chosen to cross the Heaviside Layer because among the Jellicle Cats, who all performed superbly, she's the one who produced a commercial hit. I kid.

3) Skimbleshanks untied my shoelace and I got to caress another kitten's paw (Jemima, I believe).

4) If I had the resources, I'd be there every night.

5) This is beautiful: "After (the naming of cats where) we explained to the audience what we feel about being a cat, we then let the audience see something that they shouldn't be seeing, which is a beautiful young cat dancing sensuously for herself." —Gillian Lynne during a rehearsal with Finola Hughes (Victoria)

06 November 2019


I have never made bread before but I know how it tastes. A little research and willingness to fail go a long way. So I follow a simple recipe. Everything's going well until it isn't. Until I'm not sure if dough should be this sticky. Yet I knead on.

Then by accident or instinct, I smell my hands. It smells of bread. From hereon I know that I'm in the right direction. At this point the journey and the destination are one and the same.

Thing I made

A year ago I felt a desire to cook with a freedom akin to swimming (I would often tell friends how learning to swim changed my life). It's still a mystery what pushes me to finally act. I always wanted to bake but keep thinking about my lack of space and tools. Apparently, I have more than enough. My 10 X 14 chopping board is the perfect surface. My tiny oven toaster holds the heat. My hands.

I have everything I ever needed. This I learn soon after deciding to begin.

Since July I've made popovers, copied Gennaro Contaldo's Tuscan chicken, wielded a spurtle, proved my perfect sunny-side up is no fluke, owned my first cast iron.

The year's theme is 'kindle', because I am missing a hunger for poetry and I am hungrier for company. Well I can say that I read more and better now. As for friends, old and new ones have entered my world soon after I decided to open the door wide.

Cooking, however, that's a surprise. Like I said, I can compare it to swimming, reading, writing, and playing the piano. It fills me.

What's next, it seems, is to cook for. I love working with my hands and I would love to be a source of fullness.

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