Whilst watching the trailers in the cinema on my last visit… I secretly reveled when the trailer of Cats crawled across my screen ;)
This, (along with Bugsy Malone and Oliver Twist) was one of the many productions we performed at my multi-‘classed’ Primary school. I’d never heard of it… but I remember having to learn the music for the song Memory and playing it on my clarinet in front of my family in a school assembly.
As I played my clarinet in front of the audience, positioned at the front of the stage - on front of the other children playing Cats, I secretly wished I were a Cat. And so the desire to act was birthed.
So here I was, 25 years later… watcing dancing on the streets of London, hearing the frequency of Memories… and again – wishing I was a CAT!
As you are probably aware, this production has come under major scrutiny especially regarding the CGI… the Computer Generated Image.
I laugh because, although I agree and also had major problems with the CGI, I have to admit my eyes will never adjust to a Computer Generated Image.
It is definitely something you have to be programmed to accept, and as programming usually is most effective during infancy it would be interesting to read a generation Z’s perspective on CGI.
See my TOP BOY review about the differences in generation Y and Z.
For a movie of this caliber the CGI was dreadful! It felt like it had been rushed with a lack of consistency in the conversion of human to cat and obvious mismatches in proportions. For example, Judi Dench's hand looked human in one shot and there was a Kitchen scene where the Cats (and even the mice) looked too small in comparison to the furniture.
However, I really enjoyed Francesca Hayward who plays Victoria the White Cat and Jennifer Hudson who plays Grizabella the Glamour Cat’s performances. The physicality of all of the Cats excited me - I loved the dances and the subtlety of 'cat like' gestures - but these two were my favourite. They both clearly researched and observed slight details and movements associated with the feline species - and whilst the CGI was a mess (alongside broad rather than detailed performances by some) Francesca and Jennifer were a saving grace and rescued the film.
From beginning to end Cats was jam packed with Ancient Egypt symbolism, with bars and place names being relative. It even included our very own Trafalgar Square Lion - that has a very sphinx quality of its own!
I’ve been reading books on Kemet (the original name for Egypt) recently, and so this really stood out to me. And as the cats in Cats danced on the streets of London I got thinking (it doesn’t take much) about how the Black (African) presence fits into the square that is namely England.
As the thought arrived so did Jason Derulo, as the Curious cat. I found this performance challenging as it drew on obvious stereotypes, was too similar to Idris’ Macavity Mysterious cat and I kept on thinking about the many Black British singers/ dancers I knew who would have just done a better job!
Why not give them the role, rather than this usual comfortability gap that is happening both in the UK and America?
Here's one suggestion.
Taking me full circle in memory, I went to school with Varren. He played the drums and I played the saxophone. And although Varren has had an amazing career with groups like Fun*dmental and as a song writer I don't understand WHY BLACK BRITISH TALENT ISN'T PROMOTED MORE??????
Cats didn't have to have Computer Generated Images to win me over, as the nostalgia alone means I will always hold the production highly. However, it missed the opportunity of uniting a fractured society made up of different races, cultures, sizes and ages that are home bred!
Although the Cats colour weren't locked into the race of the actor (which I was happy about) - the progressive conversation of colour blind casting meant that inherent racial prejudices associated with the colours Black and White were overlooked.
The flack of being Black, and the negative associations with bad luck and black magic meant I was happy that Mr Mistoffelees - the black cat was good. Shade?
Equally - the White is Right and innocent image well, that remained... kind of. No shade? Just make up to whiten the actress. I'm not sure I would have responded well to them deciding to 'black up' a Black Mr Mistoffelees - and thought the shading of a brown cat especially for Jennifer Hujdson worked well. However, this... did not work well for me!