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)

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