I’ve been to a few shows this winter, but the Pleasance Theatre’s Cat in the Hat has been the most enjoyable family treat so far. Almost-3-year-old Gwen was beaming throughout, and I came out tingling as though I’d been tickled with a silly-stick for 45 minutes.
Those familiar with Dr Seuss’ classic will know that it is a simple story, open to interpretation. Sally and her brother’s home are invaded by the eponymous cat who, with a fish, two kittens and a couple of Things, all mess up the place in zany fashion. Then they put it all back together again, just in time for Mother’s arrival home.
What a difference a year makes. When I reviewed Katie Mitchell’s adaptation of Cat in the Hat at Greenwich Theatre last February, I concluded it was ‘mischievous and lugubrious in turn.’ The performance in the Pleasance’s more intimate setting, however, was a completely different kettle of fish. Mainly because – boom, boom – the character of Fish was interpreted in a completely different way. Gone were Paul Cleveland’s magnificently melancholic rubber-features; instead, Fish was a cheeky, pink-hatted creature played by Jessica Lucy Kent and Hannah Vesty. I do like to wallow in a good bit of melancholy, but the extra energy brought by the bouncy fish, as well as the addition of two merry kittens (when Thing 1 and Thing 2 weren’t on stage – all played by the same actors), meant that this performance was high-octane fun from start to finish.
The set was stunning in its simplicity. The line-drawing effect given to everything, even the costumes, meant that the action appeared slightly other-wordly; even when reality hit in the shape of Thing 1 and Thing 2 making their crazed excursions into the audience, and huge bouncy balls boinging their way onto our heads, it felt as though we were in the middle of a cartoon rather than an Islington theatre.
The performance was perfect for slapstick lovers, with its squeaky rubber balls and comedy falls where no-one is really hurt. It’s the sort of show where you can’t help but get carried away with the excitement and merriment; perfect for bringing some Christmas cheer, without even a snowflake or red costume in sight. I do hope that, if the run of this adaptation continues into next year, director Lillie Collier sticks with this version. We’d be sure to pay a return visit, to get in another dose of warming Winter-giggles.
UPDATE FOR 2016/17: The Cat In The Hat will return to the Pleasance Theatre this festive season from Tuesday 6 December 2016 to Monday 2 January 2017.
We were given tickets for the purpose of this review, but all views are my own.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.