Adapting popular picture books for the stage must seem like a home run, but sometimes what works because of sparse words, cleverly used white space and gentle subversion is hard to translate into family-friendly theatre.
Based on the 2009 National Theatre adaptation, The Cat in the Hat at the Turbine Theatre sometimes struggles to find the right balance.
At various points Seuss’ own words don’t quite fit the format – sometimes the cast drop the rhythm, which doesn’t help, but the book’s weirdness doesn’t always gel with the generally fun but straightforward approach. There’s a bit of a tussle between the book’s off-kilter nature and the more uncomplicated silliness and friendliness that pads it out.
The show has some playful set pieces, great choreography and lovely touches (such as beanbags at the front for the smallest theatregoers, and the opportunity for photos with the cast at the end). But these sit unevenly against other slightly rough around-the-edges moments and at times a slightly frenetic feel.
Jonathan Ray as the Cat is the star of the show, with a performance that layers otherworldliness with likeability and stands out against more broad-brush approaches elsewhere in the cast. Ray’s chaotic energy covers the fact that he’s very much in control and deals excellently with audience interaction (both the invited and unexpected).
Full of good humour and warmth, the production is undeniably a lovely first theatre experience for families despite the rough edges.