Reviews I missed: Cats Talk Back (Sydney Fringe)

Cats Talk Back

Occasionally, day job and other projects get in the way of a reviewer’s agenda. Reviews are not only about selling tickets. They contribute to a contemporary conversation about the essential practice of theatre, the way Sydney approaches this artistic practice and how we should talk about what we see. For this reason, I will publish critical reviews after the production run. Lisa

New Theatre and The Sydney Fringe Festival

September 9 to September 14

You can read more about the production here

Images: Bob Seary

Cats is back! You have until December 2019 to find a way to avoid the onset of Cats fever and its accompanying Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots, Taylor Swift as Bombalurina and Jennifer Hudson tossing her hat in the ring to sing THAT song. It’s a film that should never be made which is based on a musical that should never have been composed and a crap book of poetry that should never have been written. Thank god Faber and Faber had the wit to never publish Eliot’s 34-line poem ‘Cows.’ Andrew Lloyd Webber would never have shown the same restraint! We don’t all hate Cats today because we loved it when we were sixteen – we hate it today because it isn’t any good!

All this led the very clever Bess Wohl to write an hour-long ode to Cats and the odious ‘actor/poser’ with whom the musical has become synonymous. In this very witty hour-long presentation real life theatre journalists Elissa Blake and Jason Blake take turns at the straight man set to interview a bunch of Cats actors learning to cope with the close of the show after its eighteen-year run. Bess Wohl has a ton of fun imagining what these folks might be like including blessing them with the various neuroses that many performances might produce in the egocentrically challenged.

Bess Wohl may have fun putting these caricatures together, but it is the actors who really have a ball, playing into the nonsense and phenomenon of the show, and camping up the more notorious personalities into the worst kind of actor. David Woodland, Jodine Muir and Julian Ramundi carry the weight of the backstory and more complex roles while Callum Alexander, Shayne de Groot and Taylor Buoro offer lighter roles that add their own special comic touch and Daniel Mulholland plays a variety of notable audience members. It’s all bundled together in a happy, hilarious mess by director and designer Sahn Millington who manages to keep a tight reign on what could easily become a show suffering from its associations. But no, this show about Cats is never as dull as Cats, and that in itself is a small ode to the longsuffering cast and crew who worked on that show for the pleasure of an endless ocean of velour tracksuited  fans for just over 7,845 performances.