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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical ‘Cats’ was performed by our students in February 2014. Cree, who played ‘Rum Tum Tugger’ in the show, relates his experiences...
‘Cats’ was a highly enjoyable journey. We all gained new skills and experiences we’ll never forget. During the winter shows, we normally perform on the stage in the school hall. However, this time was an exception. The cast were told we would be performing ‘in the round’, which is in an arena-type stage. Instead of a basic theatre, where the audience view the show from the front, the audience surround the stage instead. Theatre-in-the-round removes the fourth wall and brings the actor into the same space as the audience.
At first, we were quite apprehensive; we hadn’t performed in the round before, so we didn’t know how it was going to work. In addition to this, we were told that the stage would rotate! However, despite initial doubts amongst the cast, the stage looked incredible, and we all managed to balance on the rotating stage without too much trouble.
The major challenge for any actor performing in the round is reaching four different sections of audience, so nobody misses out on anything. We all adapted to these new dimensions impeccably and the audience were captured by every minute of our performance.
The majority of our previous shows didn’t include half as much choreography as ‘Cats’, so it came as a welcome challenge for the cast, and people managed to learn dance moves they didn’t even know existed! Indeed, many of the cast had never tried dancing before, and have since chosen to pursue their new-found skills further, increasing fitness levels and flexibility. Although, personally I’ll never be able to do the splits!
The costumes were quite unorthodox, as they didn’t resemble the original ‘Cats’ attire. Instead of the tight-fitting lycra usually associated with the show, they were actually boiler suits, but they looked very convincing, and each costume represented the unique personality of each cat. No theatre costume is complete without makeup, and for the first time we had our own makeup artists. They were a mixture of staff members and students, who were there every single night to make sure we went on stage looking as feline as possible.
Pre-show preparations ran at maximum; makeup artists arrived at 3:30pm and didn’t leave until the start of the show at 7:30pm. They used a ‘conveyer-belt’ method to ensure each cast member had their own individual makeup, with some of the makeup artists even being in the cast! Without them, the show would not have been anywhere near as good as it was. The cast can’t even begin to express their appreciation for them.
The lighting was a highlight of the show. The overture had no cast members involved. Instead, it showcased our technical talents, and still managed to engage the audience entirely. Both sound and lighting were on top form for the production, and it really managed to enhance the quality of our performance.
‘Cats’ was an intense performance, with no members of the cast leaving the stage area. We interacted with the audience during the interval; it was impressive how everybody managed to maintain their character for so long. It also gave us occasion to play with improvisation and spontaneity. I seized the moment to interact with the Mayor of Maidstone, who had no choice but to let me play with his livery collar (the gold chain of office round his neck) as if I were a cat. It was an experience neither of us were prepared for!