Theatre Review: Cats - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭


Edinburgh Playhouse

Review by Julie Robson

Cats has arrived for its long-awaited return to the Edinburgh Playhouse and the Jellicle Ball is as magical and captivating as ever. Although it has been nearly 32 years since it first premiered in London (approximately 145 in cat years) Cats still enthrals the audience both young and old and there were plenty of excited young girls in the Playhouse dressed up as cats ready to enjoy a night out at the theatre.

Image courtesy of Alessandro Pinna Photography
One of the real positives about Cats is that, much like the cats in the show looking for their rebirth, the show does not feel like it has stayed static in the years since its first production. The changes may not be as noticeable as Starlight Express's transformation into 3D but it is a credit to the timeless nature of the original production that so little has needed to be altered over the years and it feels as fresh as the kittens springing across the stage. It's also an ideal production to introduce the younger generation to  musical theatre fans and bring them into theatres making a production of Cats always a welcome addition to the touring schedules.

The expansive junk yard set is as impressive now as at its birth during the dawn of the age of the mega musical. It's wonderful to see a production that feels like it fills the cavernous Playhouse and stays true to its roots as a spell binding experience, especially in the age of compact touring sets designed to fit in all sizes of spaces. 

From the moment the cast start to filter through the audience surprising people by appearing seemingly from nowhere with eerie flashing eyes their performance is completely feline. The dancing is astonishing and the energetic cast fill the stage, making complex set pieces appear effortless.

Joanna Ampil steals the show with her captivating portrayal of the down-trodden Grizabella. Her voice is incredible and her performance of Memory is spine-tingling. Joel Morris' Mister Mistoffelees is quite literally explosive featuring impressive fireworks throughout his performance and a dazzling coat. A definite crowd pleaser was Oliver Savile's charismatic and seductive performance of the Rum Tum Tugger which certainly left the female (and some male) members of the audience wanting more! Scotland's own Ross Finnie is marvellous as Skimbleshanks, the railway cat - a particular favourite of ours. In truth the whole ensemble are magical and the full cast numbers are definitely the highlights of the show.

The performance I attended was signed and it's always great to see theatre being accessible to all. If anyone has ever wondered what a signed performance is like, it doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the show in the slightest and opens up musical theatre a little more. What the signs for Old Deuteronomy, Jennanydots and Grizabella might be do still mystify me but huge credit to the Edinburgh Playhouse for embracing accessible performances. 

If you haven't seen Cats, don't miss this opportunity to see one of the classic mega musicals and if you have go anyway because it's just as magical as ever whether you are 5 or 95. The memory lives on. 

4 stars ✭✭✭✭

Cats runs at Edinburgh Playhouse until 2nd March