Everyone knows how tough show business can be, particularly the world of theatre. Less than two per cent of actors are in work at any given time with the rest scraping a living serving in bars or waiting tables.
So you have to empathise with Dave. He’s a Cat, or rather, he was supposed to be the star of Cats The Musical – until he was unceremoniously cut by the show’s creator Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Richard Hardwick and Jamie Beamish have written a dark comedy, CAT – The Play!!! about failed chances and broken dreams in theatreland and it returned to London briefly this week to finally give its fictitious star top billing on a major West End stage, the Ambassadors Theatre.
The one-man show has been seen out of town in both England and Ireland, and last year it did a few days at Islington’s award-winning fringe venue, The Hope Theatre, with Hardwick playing Dave.
But on Tuesday and Wednesday it moved into the Ambassadors to bring the story of Dave to a larger audience. As much as I wanted it to succeed the truth is that Dave needs to get his paws on a stronger script if he’s to find success in the West End.
Dave is now played by pukka West End and screen star, Gerard McCarthy who is one of the lucky ones, having roles in big West End productions like Saturday Night Fever and Mamma Mia as well as TV success in Hollyoaks, Titanic: Blood and Steel and the BBC Bafta-nominated crime series The Fall.
Here McCarthy cuts a forlorn figure as he stands alone on the stage, his Cats’ make-up running down his face, surrounded by props from Phantom, Les Mis, Evita and more.
As Dave he presents a sorry tale of how he was sacked from the original production of that famous musical Cats, on opening night, and has never quite recovered. The “Memory” leaves a nasty taste in the feline actor’s mouth.
He takes the audience into a world of backstage, back-stabbing, drama, romance and regrets, with a story that acts as a morality tale for every wannabe thespian. It’s tough out there.
Poor talentless Dave never rose to the dizzy heights of actually appearing in a ALW musical – but he came close with a series of short-lived roles as stage animals that never quite made it into the finished shows.
The mood of the monologue starts off playfully as the audience joins Dave on his journey through auditions and rehearsals and towards opening nights.
The one-hander is a playful and cheeky homage to the world of musical theatre and a mirthful parody of show business, but it needs more pathos and lacks the bite to be laugh-out-loud funny.
Hardwick and Beamish clearly have a great idea, which comes to fruition towards the shock end of the darker second act, but they need to beef up the first half if they want it to have a future beyond the fringe. At the moment the whole show isn’t strong enough for a full-on West End run.
Failed chances and broken dreams. Cat – The Play!!! is a playful, often darkly comic, homage to musical theatre, but it needs a stronger script for West End success.