The Gray Cat and the Flounder

One bright and sunny day, a fish jumps out of a river, and promptly meets a fellow animal with whom he will share the next 46 years of his life. The gray cat seeks organisational perfection, the flounder dreams enough for the both of them. With no shortage of charming visuals, PNME’s production tells a tale as pure and simple as they come. And though told with considerable skill, this story of love, imagination and eventual loss is hampered by it's own simplicity.

Though told with considerable skill, this story of love, imagination and eventual loss is hampered by it's own simplicity.

Said story of love concerns Bernadette Callery and her husband Joseph Newcome. Accompanied by the music of composer Stephen Foster, The Gray Cat chronicles the first meeting and later adventures of the couple. A small group of incredibly talented musicians score the piece, which features a plethora of varied forms of visual, as well as audible, storytelling. To top it off, each audience member is given their very own headset, supplying 360 degree surround sound straight to each and every set of ears.

Having conjured up tantalising possibilities for the use of this, the binaural mic is then placed in the centre of the small orchestra. Whilst certainly adding to the overall aural excellence, this seems such a waste of the capabilities on offer. This is true of so many aspects of the performance: exciting opportunities afforded by the space and the equipment are squandered - the bare minimum amount of effort is put in. Even in a heartwarming sequence featuring shadow puppetry, the feeling of over-simplification – and lack of impressiveness – is inescapable.

Perhaps this all can be traced back to an inherent issue with the plot. The scenes on display are perhaps never dull, but each one is extended past making their point, and in combination don’t really seem to have an impact. In one instance, the actress playing Bernadette outlines her new categorisation system for the library where she works. Once again, the accompaniment is fantastic, perfectly timed with the rhythmic and deliberately repetitive speech. But past an extravagant character introduction, the section serves little purpose and once the initial pleasure of the music wears off, the explanation really starts to drag. Elsewhere, projected animation is far more cute in its construction than it is artistic – another example of the limitations of PNME’s creativity. Again, this is maybe a problem with the source material; the animation is taken from the images created by Bernadette and Joseph of the animals, and so artistic license perhaps was not an option. But then, what is it that is supposed to be special, or striking, here?

This is not to diminish Bernadette’s life in any way – on the contrary, her and Joseph’s life together is a testament to the existence of soulmates, a fact which should melt even the hardest of hearts at least slightly. It is merely that PNME do so little to convince that this is a tale that deserves to be shared on such a scale. The technology at their disposal is never utilised to anywhere near its full potential, and even the consistently brilliant work of the musicians does not hold up an otherwise uninspiring piece of theatre. As Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer begins to play, the temptation to drift calmly into a soothing slumber is strong. And given the lack of impression made by what appears on stage, why resist the urge?

Reviews by Beverly Sproats

Underbelly, Bristo Square

It's True, It's True, It's True

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Drowning

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Naughty Boy

★★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

Stoned, Stupid and Stuck (A Californian Fairytale)

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Hyde and Seek

★★★
Traverse Theatre

Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Total Theatre Award nominee PNME Theatre of Music is back! Based on a true story, this show is a touching tale of life, loss and the true nature of friendship. Using headphones to give each audience member an immersive 360º sound experience like no other, the company weaves together music, animation, imagined ballet and humour into a story that reminds us that with a shared sense of silliness and the freedom to express it, we can draw the world as we wish it to be! Written by Kevin Noe and Kieren MacMillan.

Most Popular See More

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets