Spotlites is a Fringe venue committed to showcasing emerging artists and less experienced companies like One Foot in the Door. It is with this in mind that I critique a show with potential in its premise, but that ultimately failed to elicit laughter from an audience that spent more time cringing.
Billed as “comedy theatre”, Cats and Dogs looks at aging kids’ TV characters and a controlling, deity-like narrator figure as they struggle to come to terms with the past. On another level runs the protagonist’s (the narrator’s) wrestling with adulthood and retreating into the refuge of infantile fantasy as a coping mechanism.
In this post-truth, irony-saturated world we live in I am desperately clawing for some level on which I can appreciate and embrace the patronising, children’s television tone of almost all the dialogue. Perhaps it would have worked for the duration of a single sketch; sustained over the show’s hour-long duration it became irritating.
There was certainly something of The Mighty Boosh in the use of puppetry and colourful characters. However, none of it was quite weird or original enough to compare favourably with Noel Fielding’s bizarre genius.
The show’s themes were meaty enough to invite some nuanced treatment. Unfortunately, the core of the show seemed to be glossed over, or generalised so much that any attempt to manufacture a deeper meaning might have been better abandoned.
As someone with a fondness for puppet presenters, I naturally wanted to love these characters, invest in their hopes and dreams – at least pity them. I wanted to want for them to keep having pointless, cyclical adventures for the rest of their days with a narrator who cares for them. However, the infantile use of language akin to a child who has just discovered swearing, and the crude sexual references did not endear me to the creatures and shattered any notions of whimsical naivety.
A real low point of the play is the scene where a minstrel figure, who could conceivably appear on kids’ TV, begins a song lamenting his lost youth. The tune consists of two parts, the first concerns concealing an erection in the singer’s youth, the second his subsequent dysfunction in later life. Apart from the fact that the actor is clearly a virile young man, making it difficult to believe the latter testimony, the audience is invited to join in the chorus for what possibly qualifies as among the most comically excruciating moments of my life. We are compelled to murmur the moronic refrain “sitting here with my dick that don’t work” for a whole two torturous minutes.
With tantalising glimpses of ideas here and there that might have been interesting, given adequate development, this play lacks the necessary charm to sympathise with any of its diabolical, crude characters. The moralising and patronising tone is jarring and, all things considered, the play is not funny.
Image: editor’s cat