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  • Henry Longstaff

Killing the Cat - Riverside Studios

A messy, underdeveloped opening for Warner Brown’s new musical

Photography: Dany Kaan


The innate conflict between religion and science has been vastly explored before. It cuts right through to our human need for meaning and answers, rooted deeply in our own existence. Last October saw this topic scrutinised rigorously and succinctly in Robert Icke's The Doctor, but here in Warner Brown’s production the arguments are messy, confused and paper-thin.

Maggie (Madalena Alberto), dubbed the next Stephen Hawking, is the author of a globally controversial book that seeks to dispel the human experience into evidence-based chemical reactions and physics. The scale of its controversy somehow so vast that with the encouragement of her agent, she opts to escape to Livorno, Italy, for a quiet break despite the fear that even there she will be recognised. After quickly meeting the spiritual Luke (Tim Rodgers), whom she shares a mutual surface-level attraction for, their squabbling over whether we need more certainty or uncertainty in the world begins - sacrificing and fighting for the survival of a relationship that is days old.

Brown’s plot is ill-thought-out, strange and dull. Foundations for the story do not exist, ensuring that the characters remain inaccessible, meaning their intentions, actions and emotions remain a mystery. In the hope of sounding insightful and wise, the dialogue repeats itself, running through the same flimsy arguments again and again until we feel nauseous - never once finding a satisfactory outcome. Revelations are underwhelming and relationships unconvincing as the characterisations jerk from one extreme to another, with the poor cast left caught trying to make sense of it all inbetween - no help coming from the direction either.

The music is sadly not much better. The melodies are lurching and forgettable, unkind to the performers’ voices with the only glimmer of hope being Molly Lynch’s rendition of ‘All The Dead Poets.’ Her stunning vocals save the mediocre song and add much-needed grace to the proceedings. Brown’s lyrics like his dialogue are sketchy, particularly when attempting to explain the science of Maggie’s work in the song ‘The Chemical Brain.’ Shouting random scientific buzzwords is not going to cut it.

Moments of nice orchestration do crop up throughout, particularly in Georgia Morse’s cello performance, where she utilises multiple pedal effects and techniques to vary the timbre of her instrument to great effect. Jamie Platt’s lighting design, when allowed to flourish, drapes Lee Newby’s towering white set in vibrant colours, breathing some sort of life into the show.

This musical encourages audiences to ask fewer questions about the world around us but honestly, I left with far more questions than I arrived with. As soon as an attempt is made to make sense of the story being told, the piece crumbles, unable to withstand the most casual of scrutiny. Sincere performances can do nothing to transform the feeble material into an enjoyable show, particularly when basic theatrical fundamentals are ignored with blind ignorance. There is a desperate need for brutal redevelopment here, but frankly I’m not sure it is worth the trouble.

Running till 22 April - Tickets

Photography - Dany Kaan

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