Once upon a time there lived a gray cat who liked to organise things and a flounder who liked to draw.
This is the both actual and fictional love story of the Gray Cat, in real life Bernadette Gabrielle Callery, (a librarian at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History), and The Flounder, her husband Joseph Newcomer.
It’s a whimsical journey through pencil and rhyme drawing on around 4000 cartoon illustrations covering their 46 year conversation, from blind date to her death in 2012. The piece was commissioned by Newcomer in her memory.
The audience are assisted in being immersed in the journey by the use of headphones and a 360° binaural microphone. The production style has been described as “theatre of music”, with musical elements linked by video, projected images and spoken word.
Playful rhyme and visuals give a snapshot of the couple’s life together, with domestic harmony to be found in recalling travel adventures or simply sealing the driveway. The music is both original and well established, featuring parlour songs by favourite local composer, Stephen Foster, known as “The father of American music”.
The mood is at some points poignant – “We parted in the Springtime of life” from Foster’s “Nell and I” – at others quirky, such as the staccato “Dewey Decimal System” a sort of tone poem describing library classification. The vocals and musicianship are excellent throughout.
While the narration is theatrical, the staging remains very static. This may be down to technical reasons or direction. The use of the technology adds to the intimacy but falls short of its capabilities (as demonstrated in Complicite’s “The Encounter”). The arc of the performance might not be clear or compelling enough for children.
Clearly born from a passion project, the ensemble has invested a great deal into the piece. It is imaginative, original and often touching, but out of home waters it flounders a bit on the larger stage of the Fringe.
Show Times: 31 July to 22 (not 12, 19) August 2019 at 2.05pm.
Tickets: £12 (£11) to £14 (£13).