"Give me the child until he is seven," goes the saying, "and I will give you the man." I fundamentally disagree with this, and not only because I think it's wrong to go around asking for other people's children. It's that if this were true, then I would now be surrounded by homemade robots and jetpack-wearing monkeys and would sleep in a bed shaped like a car. As it is, only one of those things turns out to be anything like my reality. Also, as a kid I was really revolted by the idea of Cats (the musical), whereas the adult me couldn't wait to see it.
I suppose watching a show about filthy cats prancing around in a pile of stinky garbage isn't for everyone, but having finally caught the thing this week I can see why it's such a perennial favourite. I didn't realise what an extraordinarily strange show it is - honestly, if my cat Molly wrote a musical I reckon it would look a lot like this. There are extended sequences whose inclusion is completely inscrutable to me, and it's not just T. S. Eliot's poetry that creates this non-rational sense of animal logic. Andrew Lloyd Webber clearly paid more than cursory attention to the behaviour and inner life of the feline. That or he took a lot of drugs.
The result is a musical about animals that doesn't anthropomorphise them - of course they're played by people and sing and talk and walk about on two feet, but the effect makes humans more strange rather than making cats more familiar. The dancing is incredibly demanding and quite alien, and the cast here prove quite brilliant at meeting the challenge; the costumes are equally otherworldly.
Some people have noted that the music is pretty dated and synth-heavy, but I didn't notice that (or if I did I didn't mind, since dated synth-heavy music isn't something I dislike). The numbers I expected to be the big showstoppers weren't that big, surprisingly, while other less-obvious sequences really shone.
The show doesn't need much more mention here since it's the kind of thing you either already want to see or have no interest in. If you do have a seven-year-old of your own who's undecided, though, I think this production would turn them into a cat-person.
At the Regent until 28 March.