Eden Faithfull reviews the latest high art to hit the Cellar Theatre.
As an artistic pastiche rivalled only by the likes of Hannah Montana, SUDS’ CatGun has united a pair of opposing performances into something that becomes more than the sum of its parts: half-way musical tragedy, not entirely action-packed drama, CatGun serves up the best of both worlds. Both performances highlight the comedic and musical talents of their performers in a mere forty minutes, keeping each show fast-paced and interesting. The Cellar Theatre, as usual, provides an intimate yet sufficient space for the “double-bill to end all double-bills, dollar bills and Bill Shortens”. One can only hope they deliver on their promises.
Before I saw Cats, I had never seen Cats. Despite this cultural oversight, I was in good company, as the writer of Cats had also never seen Cats. Allow me to explain. The ‘Cat’ portion of CatGun centres arbitrarily on the premise of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s renowned Broadway musical Cats, despite writer Josh Pearce having never seen the original musical. The result is a heart-warming if not endearingly peculiar story of a vagabond troupe of alley cats, whose hearts’ desires are only for their nocturnal eyes to see the sun. Every member of the cast had their moment in the spotlight, with Victoria Zerbst’s belly-scratching, profanity-shrieking performance of the troupe’s mystical ‘Leader’ a definite standout, despite falling victim to a small technical glitch during her opening monologue. Jacinta Gregory and Theo Murray are compelling as two points of a feline love triangle. Murray’s delightfully booming bass serves as a refreshing counterpoint to his meek yet charming character.
A certain highpoint throughout the performance was the songs, with music by Jos Markerink and lyrics by Josh Pearse. Each member of the cast delivered their tunes with the wit and humour that they deserved, as Annabel Cameron impressed audience members with a performance that, though slightly undermined by nerves, was moving and unaffectedly tender. Comedic elements of the show were executed blissfully by Davis “the garbage cat” Murphy and Jestika Chand. The latter took the cake for best musical performance—even multiple reprises of a song about hairballs could not quell the comedy of this angst-ridden feline’s plight. As the show came to a close with a ritual cat sacrifice (accompanied by another welcome showcasing of Murray’s remarkable vocals, along with enough incense to floor a Buddhist monk), the cast came together to dispel the nervous energy that their characters had amassed with a nod to another entertainingly bastardised version of Lloyd Webber’s works: ‘Feline Christ Supercat’. A remarkably amusing homage-cum-musical in its own right, Cats evidences its own philosophy: it really is more fun the less you know.
Moving on to the ‘Gun’ portion of CatGun, the ensuing forty minutes of the evening was a whirl of pubescent testosterone, with this “dogfight-soap opera” adaptation of the classic eighties drama Top Gun. Devised by Declan Maher and Jacinta Gregory, The performance opened with Jack Savage’s awe-strikingly vociferous address to the audience, with his ferocious monologue delivered so flawlessly I was certain he was going to start furiously demanding better pictures of Spiderman (don’t act like you don’t know what I mean). Performances of note include Tim McNaught’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Tom Cruise that was so immaculately smarmy it would make any self-respecting Scientologist swoon. Also a consistently entertaining character, Bruno Dubosarsky wore many hats in his role, effortlessly keeping a balanced head as the flight-obsessed mayor of Aeroplane City.
This wacky adaptation of Top Gun is a fun and enjoyable spectacle, but suffers slightly for its predictable and vaguely adolescent humour. The entire cast must be commended on their convincing command of cardboard-and-backpack constructed aircraft. The inclusion of newspapers punctuating the action with comedic timing elevates the humour, with Aeroplane City boasting the “fastest news cycle in the world”, reporting on incidents that occurred on stage just moments earlier. Aviator-clad Emily Greenberg easily holds her own among an almost entirely male cast as ‘Ice Man’, oiling up with the boys and chest-bumping with the best of them in an amusing and pleasingly satirical performance, while Juliet Rae Timmerman remains the picture of unflappable feminine elegance as the Kelly McGillis-inspired love interest. Top Gun’s emotional climax is reached as Jacob Henegan’s loveable character, the “immortal” Goose, is alleged to have died, only to make a triumphant reappearance at the close of the show. Sam Pearson expertly bookends the performance with his communism-espousing Russian antagonist, providing structure and a moral to the adoring audience.
Both halves of CatGun proved unique explorations of their respective genres, succeeding with humorous and easy to watch results. Sound and lighting was used to good effect throughout the entire performance despite one or two very minor glitches, and musical selections for both pieces enhanced the comedy of the show.