Brighton Year-Round 2019
The Freckle Productions team bring Tabby McTat to Theatre Royal, Brighton for a two-day four-show leg on their nationwide tour. Directed by JJ Green with Bobby Delaney (original direction Alan Lane, with music Bobby Delaney with lyrics by JJ Green, designed by Zoe Squires, movement by Holly Dale Spencer, lighting by Ric Mountjoy. Production carpenter and scenery’s by Matthew Brewster with Michael Wolf as Magic Consultant. Tours till December.
Tabby McTat the busker’s cat. Are you epic and heroic? There’s a cast of four asking that and they’re bringing this sweet-hearted children’s play to Theatre Royal, Brighton on a two-day stint including a 10.30 and 13.30 slot on the 6th, that’s just part of their nationwide tour.
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s tale is brought live with a quartet including Luke Rees–Oliviere as narrator and Sam son of Tabby McTat, Anneka Gouldbourne as Annie and that Tabby, and the one who can sing; Paul Hilliar as Fred the Busker and Rhîan Mclean as Ree the cat and person who does magic.
It all starts with a man and his cat:
Me, you and the old guitar,
How perfectly, perfectly happy we are.
MEEE-EW and the old guitar.
How PURRR-fectly happy we are!
This is pretty close to ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ which no child will get, but which many adults accompanying them might recognize. It’s a tiny homage, just as throwing out partnerships like Lennon and McCartney and Morecombe and Wise: pitched of course to the laughing adults. There’s lots of these gags.
Directed by lyricist JJ Green with Bobby Delaney (original direction Alan Lane), the catchy strophic music’s by Bobby Delaney with those cute lyrics by JJ Green, designed by Zoe Squires with ladders (never used luckily) boxes and a purple backdrop, suddenly given a new dimension in lighting by Ric Mountjoy. Furry movement’s by Holly Dale Spencer, with production carpentry and scenery’s by Matthew Brewster with Michael Wolf as Magic Consultant.
We’re started off with scarlet-clad Rees–Oliviere’s catchy audience warm-ups with plenty of audience participating as we go n. Finding a volunteer team’s helpful, and three soon pop up from the audience, shy Mclean as Ree in bight yellow, and a great McTat fan as is Paul Hilliar in blue and green ‘the greatest’ who can bring a hat and finally lighting guru (well not the real one) Gouldbourne’s Annie all in purple. Each step Rees–Oliviere or Sam pines for a particular talent and one of the others pops up with a no, no, yes talent required. They’re infectious beautifully co-ordinated – you can’t be anything else here – and produce a wonderful harmony.
That mightn’t get enough remarked on, but worth flagging here. The choral range this quartet produces is exceptional. They’re not allowed to paly real instruments – there’s a running gag with fake instruments – but their vocal ranges stray beyond the caterwaul. It’s real four-part harmony conjured by Delaney and richly delivered here.
Tabby McTat and Fred live cheerfully till Fred gives chase to someone who steals their hatful of money, gets taken to hospital (three of the cast in white coats) and Tabby’s alone. Each miss each other, when Fred gets out, but he’s found his love interest (McLean) and three kittens are produced. Two find homes as house and farm cat, but Sam’s a street Cat with too loud a yowl like his father who’s just off to find Fred, but finding him pines for home. What to do? Sam has a solution, which brings everyone happily together.
There’s some use of the space, though mainly it’s that cheery perpetual movement and the songs, rather than the props with the broken pros-arch and so many small items. Sometimes faux instruments are plucked out, and beyond music-making McLean shows her mettle as magic card and item creator, out of everyone else’s elbow. This is the theatrical highlight leaving gasps.
A heart-warming thoroughly recommendable show the work’s really cut out for the quarte. there’s an uncredited sound system to but most of all this should be celebrated as a thrilling catfest, which forever changes our worldview of cats. It really is purrfect for summer and school’s out and much much earlier.