ChildrensDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Owl and the Pussycat – The Civic, Barnsley

Writer: Harriet Hardie and Ben Miles

Music: Rebecca Applin

Director: Harriet Hardie

Designer: Sophia Lovell-Smith

Reviewer: Laura Stimpson

The Owl and the Pussycat is the latest offering from Full House Theatre, a children’s theatre company whose vision is for every child to hold treasured memories of theatre. This performance was produced in partnership with Luton Culture presents.

Inspired by the famous poem The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, we follow Owly-cat, a character who is part Owl, part Cat on a journey to find out how such a creature came to exist and answering many questions about her being.

On entering the auditorium, the set is open and Owly-cat (Harriet Forgan) is making her way around the theatre, ‘communicating’ with the audience. This sparks the children’s interest in what is to come and also keeps them occupied while waiting for the show to begin. 

The show opens with an exchange between Quangle Wangle Quee (Ben Hammond) and Jumblie (Jordan Ellaych), they speak gobbledygook, whilst looking at maps and filling a box with items for their forthcoming journey. Owly-cat joins the characters and they introduce themselves as a family. They explain they are about to journey to find out more about Owly-cat.

The flexibility and ingenuity of the set designed by Sophia Lovell-Smith, is quickly demonstrated when the journey begins. What seems initially to be a set filled with a couple of pallets and a few pieces of junk, turns into vehicles, shadow puppets, moonlight settings as they imaginatively transport the audience to magical lands. The set is the definite highlight of the show.

The performance includes a number of songs by Rebecca Applin, the songs are apt and pleasant and the cast harmonises well. The incidental music continually develops, setting the scene for the audience and keeping people engaged.

On visiting the land where the bong trees grow, Owly-cat, with the help of her ‘family’, uncovers a number of clues that lead them to learn of the story of the Owl and the Pussycat and in turn find out how she came to exist as part beast, part fowl. As the story goes on, the performance becomes increasingly engaging and exciting, and there is a beautiful shadow puppet show. The audience also gets to pass the moon around which is a lovely touch, however sadly, it feels like it’s too little too late.

The moral of the story is about what family really is. Owly-cat chooses to return with her ‘family’ Quangle Wangle Quee and Jumblie, fulfilled with the knowledge of where she came from, but in her heart, she knows she belongs in a different land with the people who care about her. A great sentiment and a moral well told within the story.

There are a number of positive things about this performance: the set is extremely clever, flexible and fun, there are some beautiful moments, the moral is strong and well executed and the songs are good and the actors are energetic throughout. However, it feels like what should have been a highly engaging 40-minute show, has been diluted into an hour-long performance, somewhat losing its spark and the engagement of its audience.

Touring Nationwide | Image: Rachel Cherry

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. 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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