Having lately investigated the pains of youth, director Katie Mitchell is now celebrating the joys of childhood in her austere, obsessively faithful stage version - running time, just 40 minutes - of Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. No-one’s wired for sound, no-one mumbles and all angst is on hold.
It’s as though the picture book has been pinned to the theatre, where Sally and The Boy (Helena Lymbery and Mark Arends) - why doesn’t he have a name? - look dolefully through their cut-out black and white windows, in a pure blue skyscape, wondering how to liven up their day.
The restraints placed on Mitchell and her team by the Dr Seuss estate prove, in part, an aesthetic liberation: Angus Wright’s elongated Cat - in his prickly, furry cat suit and black and white striped topper - could not be more friendly a feline, achieving his balancing apotheosis on the big ball (complete with cup, books, fish and milk on a dish) with a perfect finesse.
The Fish in the Bowl is indeed a pink bulgy-eyed salmon sausage, but is inhabited in a Mr Fish suit by bespectacled Justin Salinger, tail protruding from his trousers, darting in and out of his mobile glass home. The “things” in the Cat’s big red box, pesky creatures who create domestic havoc with their rushing around and kite-flying, are played by a couple of blue-haired identical twins, Luisa and Sandra Guerreiro.
The naughtiness conspiracy is all part of the well-behaved, middle-class tone of the event, beautifully picturesque in Vicki Mortimer’s design, Jon Clark’s lighting and Paul Clark’s pre-recorded, rather strait-jacketing music.
I preferred the less reverential, messier approach of the Broadway show Seussical the Musical a few years back, not to mention the brilliant Jim Carrey film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! But nice little three-to-six-year olds and their polite mums and dads will be happy enough.