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The Theatreguide.London Review

Cat And Mouse
Village Underground  June 2017; Latitude Festival July 2017

Play? Musical? Projection? Concept album? Cat and Mouse is all of the above and much much more. 

Offering up a dark morality tale for our times as its narrative, 1927's arthouse multimedia show takes a deep breath of inspiration from classic US comic strip Krazy Kat - fertile ground that gave us Tom And Jerry on the one hand and Maus on the other - and plunges into impressive theatrical experiment.

The brainchild of 1927, responsible for the similarly multi-faceted Golem, Cat And Mouse tells the tale of a caddish mouse and bounder cat whose rivalry eggs each other on to ever more audacious heights as they rise through our capitalist consumer-driven society to success beyond their dreams.

Animator Paul Barritt's period monochrome and pastel vignettes evolve the Krazy Kat bible like a gothic Gorillaz meets The Simpsons' Itchy And Scratchy, where collisions of madcap scenarios and hypnotic abstract interludes set the loopy protagonists up for a string of deliciously violent slapstick come-uppances that inevitably hold a resounding moral in their tails.

Providing commentary in song is diva narrator Lesley Ewen who, earthy voiced and world weary, berates us all with a knowing smile. She's clad in Hades haute couture designed by Octavia Austin, who also created the sinister dog heads and boiler suits of the live band.

The officially named Officer Pup Band - guitarist Laurence Owen, drummer Siemy Di, keyboardist Sam Sallon and saxophonist Barritt - are gloriously tight and weave their way enthusiastically through Owen's score. The pop-song length compositions stand out for being guitar-based rather than piano, which offers a far wider spectrum here, evoking John Barry's Ipcress Files period to prog rock via 50s/60s Americana, bebop and electro minimalism.

With sirens, ocarinas and a Theremin augmenting the palette, this is no mere soundtrack - think Godley and Creme's Consequences or Robert Calvert's solo albums - as the music flows stylewise in every direction tomeet and match the narrative of the images.

Barritt with his director's hat expertly keeps all these spinning plates going and never lets the pace flag, while at the same time resisting the temptation to let things get too frenetic - ditto the lighting design and the punchy sound mix.

It's really hard to find anything that needs tightening or improving, but do be forewarned that you're in for what’s essentially a rock gig format-wise. But you can be sure the producers will find you a quiet nook with a view if you so desire, so there's no need to miss catching this remarkably slick piece of experimental theatre. 

The fact that Cat and Mouse has been booked for Latitude Festival 2017 is a nice affirmation of the vision of producers Village Underground for this, their first in-house production.

Nick Awde

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Review -  Cat And Mouse - Village Underground  2017


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