Cats (Edinburgh Playhouse)

You know what you’re getting with Cats – a family-friendly spectacle of music and dance that will keep an audience enthralled. Long established as one of the mainstay shows of British theatre, it packs them in wherever it goes. All the more remarkable when you consider the source material. It must have been one heck of a hard sell. “You want to take poems by T S Eliot, set them to music, and have them sung by people dressed as cats…why don’t you go home and have another wee think about it, Andrew?”

But Andrew Lloyd Webber persevered, and the show has become, if anything, ever more spectacular with every staging. Costumes and make-up seem to have become more cat-like over the years (although why Old Deuteronomy has to look like the offspring of a Yeti and a Womble is something I have never understood). Likewise, why is one of the potentially strongest characters, Macavity the master criminal so marginalised? The audience, like the police, must be frustrated that for most of the show “Macavity’s not there…”
It is – interval apart – a non-stop, high energy song and dance performance that takes the cast all over the stage, and on occasion into the front stalls. It was just unfortunate that on the night I attended, the sound crew seemed still to be getting to grips with the acoustics of the theatre, which meant that some of the vocals got a bit lost – Oliver Savile’s Rum Tum Tugger was particularly badly affected on his solo number.
It was a night, then, for the strongest singers to shine through: Joanna Ampil a perfect Grizabella on Memory, the most memorable song in the show, while Paul F Monaghan (Old Deuteronomy) and Barnaby Thomson (Mungojerrie) gave memorable performances.
And special mention must go to Ben Palmer, whose Munkustrap was the most feline of all the performances.
Jim Welsh