Jellicle (as we agreed to call the show in a recent interview) is the vehicle for Linus Karp’s exposition of 21st century social politics. “We live in a weird weird post truth time,” Linus tells us. But to begin at the beginning: he opens it dressed as a cat, first showing us one leg from behind the curtains, then a paw, before he springs onto stage dancing and prancing. After graciously accepting the first of many applauses, he spares no time, launching straight into expounding his love of Cats and all the joy and lessons he has found in it. He is part teacher, part Mary Poppins and all jellicle cat.
But what on earth is a jellicle cat? And why does it matter? Well if you haven’t seen the musical Cats, nor read T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, you wouldn’t know. Alas, to be frank and rather coyish about it, I’d never seen the musical and was only acquainted with a couple of the hit tunes. I have since watched the movie but couldn’t possibly have picked up on the life lessons Linus drew from it. Thank you, Linus.
It actually doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve seen Cats in order to enjoy or understand the production, because Linus takes us on a journey through all the characters and the story with his own delightful take on what there is to learn from it. When sharing his acute observations of Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina jellicle cat, we’re told that “this is the Ted talk within the Ted talk”. Not a bad description of the whole show, though Ted in this instance is ever so queer and ever so dear.
The stage is bare save for a screen on which he projects stills and videos of all manner of things. Names of jellicle cats – an exposition of jellicle cat names and how to create one. Pictures of himself and the jellicle cats from Cats he refers to (educates us on). This is not a classroom, though it kind of has that feel. Possibly the teacher we’ve always wanted, could have done with or indeed the purring parent none of us had.
“I do pay him with my jellicle body but just for the record, that’s not the way to pay your production staff,” Linus is referring to his stage manager who’s also his boyfriend. The laughter just doesn’t stop in this show, you’re drawn to loving him, impossible not to. On screen, Linus shows us a letter he penned, “Dear Scotland Yard, Hope you’re well. Do you keep cat paw prints on file?”
It’s one hour long and not a second is wasted; Linus packs it full to the brim with all he’s learned from Cats and yes, as it says on the tin, life lessons he’s learned from the production. His fast talk, clipped speech, constantly moving body, peering at us through these large specs, ever so earnestly appealing to us is utterly engaging. There’s a little audience participation and we’re all asked to ensure we make an extra effort to laugh just that little bit louder than usual because, as he rightly points out, we’re all wearing face masks.
Is this review all about Linus? Well, it rather is because he is the star of the show, the writer of the show, the conceiver of the show and the person who is the giver of joy! You leave the show feeling lighter, happier than you did before you saw it. His diligent determination to share and delight utterly works.
Among the plethora of jellicle cat qualities presented in this life lessons exposition, Linus informs us “jellicles can and jellicles will lie about their abilities”. There is no lying about Linus’ abilities. He’s a delightful performer, an engaging entertainer full of joy in what feels right now a rather joyless world.
Written & directed by: Linus Karp
Produced by: Joseph Paterson & Awkward Productions
The show is currently running until Saturday 24 October. Tickets for remaining shows can be purchased direct from the theatre’s website.
You can read our recent interview with Linus here