Mog the Forgetful Cat – Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: Kerrie Walters

Writer: Judith Kerr

Adaptor: The Wardrobe Ensemble

Music: Joey Hickman

Directors: Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton

Prowling onto the Royal and Derngate stage this summer is Mog the Forgetful Cat. Part of the Made in Northampton season,it’s a story that fills us with joy and nostalgia in equal measure as we collectively remember reading the books on the hard cold floor of the school assembly hall. Just as the books stole our hearts as children, so too will the play as we share the story with the next generation.

Made famous by the books written by Judith Kerr, Mog forgets simple things like having a cat flap, or that she has already eaten. But often, this forgetfulness is her secret superpower. Her adventures see her catching a burglar, winning a cat show and even follows an unfortunate trip to the V.E.T. all with comical results.

The story is an amalgamation of Kerr’s books, set within a seasonal structure living a year in the life of Mog the cat, with each season taking on a different story. The script is lifted verbatim and is played against some excellent physical theatre sequences. Transitions between scenes are swift, with prop signifiers like umbrellas and flowers, windmilled to convey atmosphere and meaning. The minimalist approach to props really plays well and propels the story at an impressively exciting pace. In the nightmare sequence where Debbie dreams of a tiger, a simple blanket and mask pulsating menacingly is an effective and powerful piece of imagery, conveying Debbie’s terror without frightening the young audience. The show itself very much starts as it means to go on, establishing early on that the children of the audience are very welcome to participate in the show, which they do with gusto. They are wowed by the cast as they sing, dance, and fly their way through the seasons.

Adapted for the stage by The Wardrobe Ensemble, this show truly is a sprinkling of magic as the books come to life before our eyes. Of course, The Wardrobe Ensemble has earned itself a stellar reputation for its devised shows, particularly, their adaptations of children’s books. This show is no exception: Mog’s adventures have been transferred from page to stage with meticulous detail and just the right amount of whimsy to create the ultimate family experience.

One cannot help but be struck by the incredible doll house style structure of Laura McEwen’s set. It is beautifully juvenile, simply designed and highly functional with the ability to pop, flip and move according to the needs of the narrative arc. Similarly, her approach to costume is inventive, with colourful characters spliced with matching animals on the other side of their profile. Cleverly, the choreography of the V.E.T. sequence creates marvellous chaos and makes the multi-roling of the ensemble as both pet and pet owner really pop, and here the magic of McEwen’s design really comes into play.

An excellent use of the set in practice is a split stage car sequence where Mog is on her way to the V.E.T. The exposed keyboardist takes on the role of BBC Radio 2 presenter/commentator, as Mum (Kerry Lovell) and Mog (Hanora Kamen) execute an immaculate physical theatre movement piece, displaying Catriona Giles’ brilliant choreography in a fantastically slapstick way. The children are left howling with laughter at Kamen’s fabulously feline physicality, which is razor-sharp; coupled with the innocent expressiveness of her eyes, everything about this piece is captivating. As chaos builds, all the components of sound, design and movement weave themselves together in a glorious theatrical tapestry, resulting in a ludicrous spectacle that leaves the young audience in an uproar of excited laughter. The raucous nature of this scene is then expertly de-escalated as Mog drifts off to sleep, dreaming that she is a butterfly.

This frenzy of movement during the season changes brings with it the most stunning picture-postcard freeze-frame string of images. Autumn comes to a climax with the cat show, where the ensemble parades as different cats vying for the prestigious award of best in show. They are fantastic, individually walking the catwalk, offering interpretive dance and finally, finishing with a barbershop quartet of meows. How could you not fall in love? As the cat show takes place, Mog is hiding in the attic, having been confused by the huge tent in her garden. Eventually, she decides that she is going to face her fear and jump at the tent whilst it is still. The stage flying is beautifully placed as Mog gate-crashes, literally jumping through the roof of the tent and accidentally wowing the judges, taking the prize.

Mog the Forgetful Cat is another brilliant adaptation by The Wardrobe Ensemble, who have brought these beloved books to life in the most magical way. Whilst the show is billed as suitable for ages 3+ it is a thoroughly enjoyable show for all ages.

Runs Until 19 June 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Fantastic feline fun!

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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