Theatre review: Cats, Edinburgh Playhouse

'It's just cats.' Picture: Getty Images

'It's just cats.' Picture: Getty Images

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Look, I get why everyone loves a six-second cat clip on Vine. And I see the funny side of that #CatsAgainstBrexit hashtag. I’ll go further and say there must be pleasure in flicking through TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Cats | Rating: ** | Edinburgh Playhouse

But Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 35-year-old blockbuster goes on for the best part of three hours. Who needs that many cats? It’s not even real cats. It’s people dressed up. They play mangy cats and ancient cats and groovy cats and the cat we’re supposed to like because he does magic and they all make out like they have something important to say. But they don’t. It’s just cats.

Worse than that, they’re old-fashioned cats. The costumes place us somewhere between Cher in a Meatloaf video and the arrival of Sigue Sigue Sputnik; the choreography is indebted to Top of the Pops; and the attempt to update Rum Tum Tugger’s “street” sound is about as edgy as Wham Rap!

When I first saw Cats in the mid-80s there was some novelty value in the actors prowling into the auditorium and a musical sustained by song and dance alone. Now, it’s a show that’s lost what little purpose it once had, especially with a sound design that denies us roughly half the words. There are a few jaunty tunes, of course, and Marianne Benedict raises the emotional temperature with her powerful rendition of Memory, but it is emotion without context, the echo of some forgotten dramatic moment.

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