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Cat and Mouse review at Village Underground, London – ‘quirky animation’

Scene from Cat and Mouse at village Underground, London. Photo: Matt Humphrey Scene from Cat and Mouse at village Underground, London. Photo: Matt Humphrey
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Shoreditch music venue Village Underground’s first in-house theatre production comes care of Paul Barritt, animator and co-artistic director of 1927.

Cat and Mouse is a reworking of his 2014 tribute to George Herriman’s early 20th century Krazy Kat cartoon strips. The archetypal ancestors of Tom and Jerry, Krazy Kat and Ignatz the mouse engaged in an even more one-sided conflict in Herriman’s work: the mouse habitually threw bricks at Krazy’s head, who was nevertheless infatuated with the mouse.

With new live music from the Officer Pup Band – who wear rubber bulldog masks – and onstage narration from Lesley Ewen, Baritt’s one-hour animation makes this feline-rodent struggle holistic and systematic: simple domination through violence turns into exploitation of them through industry, manipulation of them through education and media, and subjugation of them as sexual objects.

Barritt’s visually quirky, free-associative quasi-stop-motion animation comes to the fore here, and it is a real treat. The offbeat raucous jazz-inflected music is familiar from 1927 shows Golem and The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, replete in this case with air-raid siren – and a theremin for good measure.

The live narration performed by Lesley Ewen is the most underdeveloped strand here – despite in an incredible clockwork-inspired headpiece by Octavia Austin. This is due both to a one-note performance, and the words themselves, which meander to a half-baked satirical ending.

With none of the interaction between actor and animation that typifies Barritt’s 1927 work this piece of gig theatre wants a compelling live element to complement the visual invention.

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Visually quirky animation and live music combine in a tribute to George Herriman cartoons