King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Marianne Gunn

Four stars

SINCE returning to London’s West End in December 2014, Cats has welcomed a bit of a resurgence; re-opening on Broadway this year (albeit without Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella) was further confirmation that the show has a few of its nine lives left.

The 1981 smash hit is not without problems, however. Some of the poems from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats are just a little bonkers - The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles Together with the Marching Songs of the Pollicle Dogs is the first to spring to mind (for obvious reasons).

The strength of this touring production, though, is that it celebrates what is magical about the show, as Cats (as much as being a through-danced show, with splendid updated choreography from dance legend Gillian Lynne) is a celebration of the theatre itself. Trickery of lighting, props, conjuring, pyrotechnics, aerial acrobatics and much more remind the cynical – or hyper-critical – that as an introduction to musical theatre (with its clever use of the whole theatre venue as performance space) it is a hard show to beat.

Dance performances were uniformly slick: although Sophia McAvoy as white cat Victoria was most memorable, Emily Langham’s playful Rumpelteazer came a close second. The tap sequence for the old Gumbie cat (Lucinda Shaw) and the lead vocals of Growltiger (Greg Castiglioni) were aesthetic favourites for me, although the “re-booted” Rum Tum Tugger (Marcquelle Ward) with his gold chains and rapping won the popularity vote.

The ensemble singing of Old Deuteronomy, as well as Journey to the Heaviside Layer, showcased Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more sophisticated compositions, but it was Grizabella’s Memory in Act 2 that allowed the powerful singing of Marianne Benedict to transport us to a different plane.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Dundee Rep

Neil Cooper

Three stars

It's a man's world alright in the Globe Theatre's 1960s inspired take on Shakespeare's proto rom-com, set largely inside designer Katie Sykes' rainbow-bordered box resembling an after-hours open mic dive bar. Here Valentine and Proteus are a couple of small town boys in stuffy old Verona, wanting to make the scene in the far groovier Milan. With his guitar on his back, Guy Hughes' Valentine hits the road, while Dharmesh Patel's Proteus remains hopelessly devoted to Leah Brotherhood's Julia. With Valentine forced into a dance-off over Aruhan Galieva's society girl Sylvia, Proteus follows his main man to the big city, while Julia dons Bob Dylan cap and suede jacket to inveigle her androgynous way into the gang.

Nick Bagnall's production sees love letters sent as seven-inch singles before the would-be couples flirt with promiscuity and cross-dressing in a youthful rites of passage that traces an entire decade's worth of pop culture by way of James Fortune's live score. The second half is hairier, hippier and more hard rockin', with the servants remaining infinitely cooler than their masters. Adam Keast's parka-clad Speed even supplies the dog, Crab, played with laidback abandon by Freddie Thomas, with a bag of blue pills.

The most problematic part of the play, in which Proteus attempts to rape Sylvia, only for Valentine to 'give' her to his bro', could here be put down to the era's ingrained misogyny and hypocrisy regarding free love. With Sylvia and Julia left cowering and cowed as their suitors have their own all-boys-together happy ever after, the women who drove the play, it seems, are locked out of the love-in, left to freak out on their own.


Buzzcut: Double Thrills

CCA, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Three Stars

Three performances on this Buzzcut bill, each one tied into an aspect of personal identity. In Louise Orwin’s A Girl and a Gun it’s her confusion over why she’s drawn to a pistol-packin’ genre she finds innately repulsive.

The trigger for her show? Jean Luc Goddard’s remark that ‘All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.’ Orwin decides, for her simultaneous on-stage/on-screen movie, she also needs a man to play opposite her Southern belle - only, in the interests of subversion, he can’t really be in control. This ‘Him’ - no names, we’re in archetype land - is required to read his lines cold, from an autocue, while Orwin’s ‘Her’ shifts gears from cherry-eating siren to abused woman and then corpse ... bang! bang!

There are almost too many targets in Orwin’s sights here, as her focus extends from the happiness of a warm gun to the nature of male and female fantasies about dominance and submission and on, into a strand about watching/being watched. Then there’s the language, with its cliches and overheated entendres, that Orwin indulges in at length. People laugh, copiously. But Orwin’s scatter-gun structure ultimately misfires: the confusion reigns.

No doubts, whatsoever, about where Katy Dye’s head and heart are at in FLAG. Post-Brexit, she’s flying a proud Union Jack, eulogising the patriotic songs of Elgar and Parry, hailing Rule Britannia! for the way it stirs her emotions and energies. There’s something brave and fine - and humorous, too - about her outpourings for such an emblem of a still-united Britain. Melanie Forbes-Broomes’ GRIN is still a work-in-progress but already the interaction between her dance and lighting - with a gradual reveal of the West Indian roots of her movement - is utterly absorbing.