Theatre Review: Tabby McTat, Everyman, Liverpool
Stage adaptations of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s hugely popular children’s books are so ubiquitous these days that they should probably be categorised as their own sub-genre of theatre.
The common thread that runs through many of them, however, is the challenge of padding out what are pretty minimalist storylines into something that passes for a show substantial enough to merit a viable ticket price. In this version of Tabby McTat, Brighton-based Freckle Productions have opted for a fourth wall-busting, multi-genre musical as their chosen means of filling time around the scant tale of a busker’s cat who shacks up with house cat Sock but pines for his guitar-wielding human pal Fred.
The result is something with a bit more theatrical heft, if slightly fewer easy audience wins (puppets for example) than other Donaldson-Scheffler stage outings. True, the smiley four-strong cast in their brightly-coloured t-shirts and converse hi-tops looked a bit like some kind of numerically-depleted S Club 7. Admittedly, an over-long section involving magic tricks had younger punters squirming in their seats a bit, and the role-swapping device of different hats to represent different characters, at the expense of full-blown costumes, meant that a trick was missed in terms of spectacular feline attire.
Yet Luke Rees Oliviere was an energetic MC as Samuel Spratt, McTat’s tone-deaf son, and there was plenty of cheerful clapping and singing along from the audience as a result. There was a full-blown ballad about Tabby’s loneliness, which had one of my daughters looking genuinely sad, while an imagined brass band parade had her laughing out loud, as did (inevitably) a line in a song sung by doctors fixing Fred’s broken leg that promised to fix his knee and take him for a wee. Spratt ‘the street cat’ even did an enjoyably tame bit of rapping. All in all, the creative team behind this hour-long production have done an admirable job with material that is at once much-loved and little to go on. As a warm and engaging introduction to theatre for small people, you could do a whole lot worse.
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