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Purrfect?

T. S. Eliot's cats were out of the bag at a fun evening at the British Council


FOR LOVERS of cats and verse, it was an evening of `purr'fect fun when the Theatre Circle of British Council's Culture Café presented "The Cats' Out of the Bag" at its premises on Friday. Directed by Deesh Mariwala, the students of Stella Maris College who had participated in an outreach workshop, brought a whole array of feline characters to life.

Leaping on to the tables, padding across its length, crouching and slouching, they told their tales with minimal props. A couple of chairs, flashlights and their clear, strong voices were all that were needed to create T.S. Eliot's wonderfully humorous and inventive accounts of members of the cat species.

"Old Possum's Practical Book of Cats" published in 1939 was the writer's gift to his godchildren. Not just fun to read but spectacular to stage as Andrew Lloyd Webber proved with his immensely successful musical "Cats". The exotic names match the unique personalities "for a cat needs a name that is particular... Else how can he keep his tail perpendicular... ?" There is Jennyanydots, who lazes through the day but when the family is asleep, "Tucks up her skirts to the basement to creep. She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice — their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice." Then there is Growltiger, "the terror of the Thames", and Rum Tum Tugger who is difficult to please. Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer more than live up to their notorious reputation but they cannot match the master criminal Macavity who defies the law with such impunity that he is the "Napoleon of Crime". The boasts of Gus, the theatre cat who once received "seven cat calls" and the epicurean ways of the upper crust Bustopher Jones add variety to Possum's hilarious cat gallery.

The only lighting used were the torches held by the students. This created arresting shadows and threw their whiskers — painted faces into cat-like relief. The Jellicle cats segment was very well conceived with the flashlights waved by the moving figures creating their own patterns. The voices and movements varied constantly and there was even rap.

There is a blurring of genres in the productions of the Cuture Café with poems being enacted and plays read. Also, the chock-a-block hall showed that it is high time the performances are moved elsewhere.. .

For Mariwala, this marks an exit from the Chennai theatre scene. "I will be moving to Bangalore soon," he says. "Cats blew me backwards when I first read it. It was fun to introduce the cast to poetry. And the poems also made it possible to provide equal roles for them." KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

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