Killing the Cat ★★★★★ Riverside Studios | Mar 17 - Apr 22, 2023

Ostensibly, a love story, Killing the Cat has a lot more going on. Research scientist, Maggie, has written a bestseller arguing that all human emotion and experience are basically the result of biochemical determinants. However, on a trip to Livorno she is attracted (no doubt, as determined by her biochemistry) to hunky Luke who is a believer and leads a group of spiritual seekers. The circle includes the somewhat ditzy Heather who claims to speak to dead poets and her companion the inarticulate Connor who finally realises that he is going through an existential crisis and that what he is looking for is certainty. Two conflicting versions of certainty are offered by Maggie (science) and Luke (religion) but they are at war and don't seem to be able to be reconciled by Heather (art). The musical can be read as an allegory for Connor's and everyone's existential quest. This is a charming and intelligent piece of writing that provides interesting relief from the predictable romantic romp or emotional trauma turn that forms a lot of current theatrical fare. Joshua Schmidt's music is arresting and Warner Brown's book and lyrics are sharp and refreshing. Madalena Alberto as Maggie has just the right degree of edginess and vulnerability, and Tim Rogers' Luke successfully conveys the satisfaction of faith without the smugness. Molly Lynch is particularly strong as the dreamy scatterbrain who actually tries to arbitrate the clash between the two principals, and Joaquin Pedro Valdes is unforgettable with his rendition of "I Ask Why?" Another highlight for us was the powerful "On Such A Full Sea." However, it is the reprise of Heather's "Other Ways" that offers a suitable conclusion to both the love story and the allegory. In this work it is not curiosity that threatens the cat as much as an implacable, and often intolerant, determination to know, and to assert the certainty of one's knowing. Killing the Cat is a unique and thoughtful musical that is engaging on all levels.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Danny Kaan.

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