The Cat in the Hat at the Pleasance, London – review

Cat in the Hat
Cat in the Hat

Ashley Bates as Cat. Photo by Garry Lake

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.

Cat in the Hat

Cartoon-esque shenanigans on stage. Photo by Garry Lake

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.

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