The Cat In The Hat Is The Cat's Whiskers
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Children's theatrical productions based on popular stories can be a minefield. If it isn’t set at the same pace as the book, or a voice isn't quite how it has been imagined, the magic of the original story can quite quickly be lost and the re-telling become a bit of a disappointment. A bit like a Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen Christmas park.
Following a sell-out run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Cat In The Hat is this season’s family offering at The Pleasance, Islington. In no time at all, the production bursts into life with madcap music, a rhyming narrative and a colourful set — all thankfully true to the style of the tale's author, Dr Seuss.
It doesn't take long for the dastardly devil of a cat (played brilliantly by Ashley Bates) to mesmerise the young crowd with his tricks, giving even those familiar with the story a sense of anticipation, wondering what on earth the cat was going to try next. Surely not another book? And all while standing on a ball?
True to how the story unfolds, when Thing One and Thing Two crawl out of the mysterious red box, the party really gets started. Like Dr Seuss’s very own tribute to Jedward, the madcap twins began to whip the crowd into a frenzy, heading into the stalls with water pistols and giant balloons, with a raise of musical tempo to match.
In fact, there are plenty of well-timed crowd pleasers in this pint-sized production, certainly enough to hold the young viewers for the duration of the 40 minute show. And unlike the book it was hard to ignore the disappointment from our little companions when the fun-loving Thing One and Thing Two were finally boxed up.
As a venue The Pleasance doesn't quite work for families, it's a fair trek from any of the nearby stations, in an underwhelming location between the recently revived King's Cross and the more vibrant Finsbury Park. There's a lack of on-site café, and the access is poor, but this is tempered by the cosy 200 seater theatre which provided great views for the little ones wherever they chose to sit.
The Cat In The Hat itself is a fantastic first theatre experience for children aged three and above. In fact, the modest running time makes it equally suitable for younger siblings (a 20-month-year-old we were with enjoyed it as much as a four-year-old). It’s energetic, colourful and extremely funny, capturing all the mischief and mayhem of the book. And the best thing of all? We didn’t even have to tell the kids to clap at the end.
By Phillipa Ellis.
The Cat In The Hat runs until 4 January, Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, N7 9EF. Tickets are £7-£12.50 available from the website or by calling 020 7609 1800
Last Updated 12 December 2014