Jellicle cat means “dear little cat”, really

Catophany (n.) The alarming collection of sounds that emanate from a dark stage filled with what appears to be moving shapes, but could be anything on account of the fact that the production designer seems to have decided that camouflage-on-camouflage is a great idea for stage design and costume.

I got this word-invention thing, of course, from the Famous WP Style Invitational That Won’t Go Away. You take a word, you add, subtract or change a letter and give it a new definition. Someone came up with “ignoranus (n.) someone who is both stupid and an asshole”. There is no word in the Oxford or Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries that better describes Julius Malema, for example, so you can see that the practice of inventing words is enriching and useful as well as entertaining.

The local production of Cats that I saw yesterday afternoon was unfortunately not  enriching, not useful and not very entertaining. It did have a brighter moment or two during the second half when I heard two great voices perform a song about a mystery cat called Macavity, but I must say that I was very keen for the show to end in spite of the late rally. It started because I could not see what was happening on the stage. It was dark, the set was a monotonous brown-and-grey trash heap and the cats were all done up in  those famous combination-cat colours: brown, grey with a little black and white thrown in. The costumes were close replicas of those from the original production (I looked at pictures) and, well, it is a pity that they were. Perhaps something similar to the description in the poem (jellicle cats were black and white, according to TS Eliot) would have saved the visuals. Al least one would have seen them in the dim light.

The floor of the stage was painted and looked like, well, camouflage, and the lighting was, well, mottled when it was at all. So that really completed the ennui of the art direction.

I may be slightly eccentric in this regard, but I think going to the theatre and not being able to see what happens in the stage is a little dull. Especially if you paid R380 for a ticket. I didn’t, I was invited, and it may be ungracious to say that the production was boring. I thought about this for a long time. I really looked forward to the show. I had good reasons to have high expectations: the spectacles that have been on offer at Tuscany on the R511 have been of a high standard. They are sold out for weeks/months, and people only have great things to say about them, as a rule.

The show was clearly and expensive one. The cast was huge – what – thirty cats? And the singing and dancing was (were? subject-verb problem, sorry) very proficient. The second half of “Memory” distorted slightly as Grizabella belted it out, but then the sound was generally terrible problematic and the high end of the scales screeched uncomfortably.

But I think the truth should out. On my way to the theatre my neighbour Mark scared the crap out me when he shouted, “Hey! Where are you going?” from behind me as I locked the door to my flat. “I am going to see Cats,” I said. “Oh,” he said, “do you know what it is about?” (Mark is culturally informed and usually surprised to find others who might have some knowledge. He and Kay also go to the Market Theatre often.)

“It’s Whatsiface Lloyd Webber’s musical about cats based on the poems of TS Eliot,” I said. He was not taken aback. “You will enjoy it,” he declared instead.

Well, this turned out to be not so. And I am sorry, and please don’t think that you can’t take me anywhere because I always have something to complain about. I saw Giulietta moving towards the theatre as we were leaving and I told her that she should rather just have a drink and gamble a little but of course she did not listen, and was swept inside.

I could say more, but none of it will be good. I am sure I will find something in the papers today to be enthusiastic about, and I promise to share it when I do.

Oh except that I should also say that NOTHING happens in the show. Really, nothing.  There is no story, or plot, or maybe they cut out the story all together because they could not afford the costumes AND the cast AND, well, the story.  Basically, dark shapes on the stage sing and dance for two hours and they don’t even give you time to finish your drink at half-time. Okay I am going to stop now.

Oh yes and I was wearing my glasses. (Really, you sit there and the friggen’ singing and dancing just goes (go?)  on and on.)

Ok. I am gone.


2 thoughts on “Jellicle cat means “dear little cat”, really

  1. Hardspear 5 October 2009 / 13:03

    I saw Cats years ago in the West-End. The production surpassed any musical I’ve ever seen. I had tickets in the 5th row. The stage was round and the first 5 rows slowly revolved around the stage. The production was super – far better than the West-End production of Phantom of the Opera I saw. Back in SA I saw Phantom again – in the State Theatre. It was brilliant! 10 times better than the one I saw in London.

    I must also admit that I knew 75% of the Cats soundtrack well before I went to see the show. But still – I think the production counts for a lot. I considered going through the motions of getting a sleep-over babysitter and taking my wife out to see the local production of Cats, but after reading your post, I will definitely NOT.

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