Of course I was the only young adult in a monstrous mass of restless children. Of course the only other company available were the respective parents waiting to tire their children out, convinced that there really is no better remedy than Dr. Seuss.
The regular National Theatre fringe transfer thrives in aesthetically embodying the sketchy quirkiness of Dr. Seuss’ writing. However, The Cat in the Hat suffers blisters in being too big for its boots, sadly sacrificing the story’s heart in place of interactive gags, typical of predictable children’s entertainment.
The story of two siblings, whose rainy day descends into a farcical, feline frenzy, is general knowledge to most. The tale’s visual flare bursts from the cartooned production design, flooding the dulled auditorium walls with Seuss’ primary-coloured mind. His universe of pigments and rhyme is enhanced by sensory creative choices, like a transformation of the audience into a briefly bubbling fish-bowl.
This nailed aesthetic is betrayed when an unforgiveable inconsistency is caught out: the dastardly sight of a modern mobility scooter peeking from the stylised mobile vacuum-contraption. The fractured illusion of domestic distraction is fully shattered when post-show deconstruction begins as soon as the production ends, halting the magic before any child has time to avert their wide-eyes.
For a narrative which requires sharpness, assured pace and precision, the on-stage action was densely and not deliberately disorganised, un-choreographed and cluttered in its execution of the linear chaos.
The use of technical and musical elements felt over-exposed, stomping into the realms of abrasion. Understanding is obscured by an intruding underscore which undermined the rhyming narrative that slowly pulled along the pace. When plot dwindled to virtual non-existence, the direction relied on audience interaction, effectively exciting the children with big balloons and blowing raspberries, but sadly at the expense of the sincerity and wonder of Seuss’ rhythm.
The frenzied structure is anchored by the performances of Sally and her unnamed brother, who harmonise in both style and voice. Sally’s performance especially shines with beaming smiles and cartoon-like posture. However, the non-human aspects of the show breached the boundaries of patronising, underwhelming, and gimmicky. Mediocre physicality and half-baked vocal originality led to lacking charisma for the hatted cat.
Although flawed in concept and execution, it should be heavily emphasised that The Cat in the Hat is a worthwhile ticket for any child’s entertainment. A little pig-tailed girl next to me turned to her mum in response to the Cat’s bemusing balancing act, declaring decisively: ‘He’s funny!’ This is a show that will make children jump in and out of their skin with excitement; it’s a production which should appeal to all ages, but misses the universal mark by overthinking its focus.
The Cat in the Hat is playing at the Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until August 21. For more information and tickets, see the Pleasance theatre website.