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Make time for Mog – a purr-fect adventure at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate

Judith Kerr’s forgetful cat brought to life by brilliant Wardrobe Ensemble in show for families which runs until June 19th

Watching hundreds of kids engage with live theatre again was pretty sweet, as were my companions for the show.

Alfred, aged six, and his ten-year-old sister Bella were drafted in when I remembered my own children, so often my companions at theatre reviews, were actually grown-up, (and that includes the 14-year-old, for whom hanging out with mum has become an interminable chore).

Hanora Kamen as Mog, all images by Manuel Harlan

This adaptation of the late Judith Kerr’s children’s books, Mog the Forgetful Cat (who frankly isn’t that absent-minded) has been lovingly brought to the stage by the Wardrobe Ensemble, who might well be Bristol-based but we claim them as our own thanks to productions at R&D like Education, Education, Education, The Last of the Pelican Daughters and Pippi Longstocking. Led by Directors Helena Middleton and Jessie Jones, the cast are variously a V.E.T, (don’t mention in front of the animals), a pet shop owner, cats, parents, dogs and parrots, with clever costume changes and a moveable set.

Hanora Kamen is simply outstanding as Mog – with literally one line, ‘Meow.’ Her physical comedy and the use of her eyes to show what she’s thinking is a masterclass for any acting student – and the physicality of the role, mostly on hands and knees, must be absolutely exhausting. She’s up ladders, across walls, on tables and anyone who has a cat must recognise those movements and feline traits. If you watched Kamen in Pippi Longstocking as the monkey Mr Nilsson, you’ll remember what a stunning physical actor she is.

Ben Vardy, Kerry Lovell, Robyn Sinclair and Jessie Meadows with Mog

As soon as we entered the auditorium the audience and cast were already interacting, with dozens of children shouting along with the excellent Tom England as a pet shop owner with trousers hitched comically too high. The incredibly talented musical director Joey Hickman moves the narrative along with his on-stage accompaniment on keyboards, and trombone, and with his own scene-stealing pet Squidgy (whose attempts at escape were the favourite part for six-year-old Alf).

Kerry Lovell, Joey Hickman, Honora Kamen, Robyn Sinclair, Jessie Meadows and Ben Vardy wait for the Vee Eee Tee!

The seven cast members tell Mog’s story through the seasons, with Mog variously being annoying ‘as detailed in the singalong ‘Bother That Cat‘ and causing chaos in the vet’s, to accidentally catching a burglar and star in a cat show. The cast seem very much a family – with Kerry Lovell and Ben Vardy as Mr and Mrs Thomas and Jessie Meadows and Robyn Sinclair as their children Nicky and Debbie. There are dream sequences and dancing, all seamlessly staged with the superb set design and costumes by the Royal & Derngate’s exceptional in-house set and wardrobe teams.

The show is an hour long without an interval and suitable for over 3s. There are performances until Sunday June 19th when there will be two FREE family drama workshops at 2.30pm and 3pm if you have booked tickets – but be quick as places are limited. There are also fun activities in the foyer and lots of opportunities and workshops through the Beyond the stage scheme, enhancing R&D’s reputation for outstanding children’s theatre opportunities.

It’s a perfect show for families who have missed out on live arts during the pandemic, and you can book tickets for Mog the Forgetful Cat, which is a co-production between Royal & Derngate, The Old Vic and Wardrobe Ensemble, via the online box office or by calling 01604 624811.

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