Cats – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Cats – Review
Bradford Alhambra, May 2013
by Mathew Gillings
Come one, come all, to the Jellicle Ball at The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford. After a two-week stint inside these royal walls, the Jellicle cats dress to impress for one final time. Much to the delight of a speechless audience. Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber presents the theatrical genius of Cats.
As we enter the theatre, the immense set hit us immediately. Heaps of trash are scattered across the stage, spilling into the front row. There are bottles, cereal boxes, and even a stove stashed towards the back. It is the type of grungy atmosphere that looks perfectly adequate for a Jellicle Ball. As the music rings through the auditorium, cats begin to crawl from the theatre’s woodwork. They spread around the stalls, interacting with the audience. We are front row, and find them looking directly into our eyes, staring us out, brilliantly, like a true furry feline.
The true magic of this performance is in the smallest of details. If an actor notices you watching them, their eyes lock onto yours and you become an immediate subject of their piercing stare. The performers lie in the most awkward positions to replicate a cat’s stance. They occasionally twitch their face, like a cat moving its whiskers. Their slow, robotic head movements, and smooth shoulder work, make them so incredibly life-like. I find myself just sitting and smiling at these talented actors and, naturally, they reciprocate.
“The man is a machine”
Joanna Ampil plays the part of Memory for the evening. I find myself feeling rather fearful as the music begins its crescendo to her famous number. She has big boots to fill considering its clear success with Elaine Paige. Things could easily taken a turn for the worst. Thankfully, my fears are clearly unfounded. Although I am quite surprised there isn’t more time and emphasis dedicated to this specific song. Ampil has no need to feel the pressure. Her powerful voice captivates the audience with its grace and majesty.
Joseph Poulton is probably the actor that stands out to me the most this evening, during his performance as Magical Mister Mistoffelees. It’s obvious that Poulton is an incredibly talented ballet dancer. I don’t think he could have been much more energetic. The man is a machine.
Above all, I am also particularly impressed with the show’s ability to break down the fourth wall. The interaction between the actors and audience is the absolute pinnacle of this performance. If someone makes a sound on the front row, the cats react instantly, completely keeping their character. Nicholas Pound, otherwise known as Old Deuteronomy, is on stage meeting audience members during the interval. Heck, one audience member even dances with the cats at the front of the stalls during the first half.
Overall, the show is a complete gem. I am blessed to have witnessed such talent first-hand. We are treated to such powerful voices during this performance. The costumes are amazing and the dancing is astounding for the entire duration. Some might say that Cats is, quite simply, purrrfect.