Naturally it made me think of performing cats, other than Lloyd Webber’s, and I recall one afternoon in Chester Gateway Theatre watching ‘Sun King to Swan Queen’ by the touring company, Ballet For All. (What a great company that was – an off-shoot of The Royal Ballet, designed by Peter Brinson to bring ballet to small theatres out in the sticks). Just as the ballerina was performing a solo from Swan Lake, a small black cat wandered on from the wings, and wove its way nonchalantly around her legs. From then on, we were all riveted to the cat. A flicker of amusement crossed the dancer’s face, and she valiantly made it to the end of the dance.
We’re led to believe that cats aren’t trainable, so a career in the theatre is out. However, a little research led me to this intriguing story in the New York Times about the Moscow Cat Theatre, and its owner, Yuri Kuklachev.
‘The idea of performing cats came to Mr. Kuklachev in 1971, he said, when he found a stray begging for food by performing on its hind legs and doing somersaults for onlookers. Mr. Kuklachev, the son of a truck driver and a factory worker, had attended clown school. He realized he and the cat might be able to do something together. He named her Strelka, and soon she was performing with him at the Moscow State Circus.
"Cats are like actors," Mr. Kuklachev said. "They do what they want. Sometimes a cat doesn't want one trick, so he does another."
I can’t imagine cats being relaxed about plane travel, nor a theatre full of cat houses and compliant cats – never mind the cat show itself. And the cats perform for love, not food.
The world of theatre is full of the bizarre – much material for fiction here.