Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Purrfect Role for an Ageing Kitten

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Purrfect Role for an Ageing Kitten

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

In showbusiness terms, it has proved to have had considerably more than nine lives. Record after record has been toppled by Cats, the Lloyd Webber tribute to the poems of TS Eliot and our feline friends.

It became the longest-running musical in the history of the British theatre when it notched up 3,358 performances in 1981, eight years after opening at the New London Theatre.

In 1997 it repeated that feat in New York, becoming the longest running musical on Broadway.

Back in the early 1990s the show enjoyed a sell-out 10-week run at Newcastle Theatre Royal. On Tuesday it opens at Sunderland Empire for three weeks, when it will no doubt win a new generation of Cats-lovers.

Some people have grown up with the show and can probably sing along to the famous song Memory in their sleep - possibly while curled up in the airing cupboard or in a shoebox under the bed.

Some of the performers have certainly grown whiskers with the show.

Matthew Gould, who plays Skimbleshanks on the current tour, first appeared in it 10 years ago playing a kitten called Victor.

Having caught his first mouse and learned the intricacies of the catflap, he returned eight years later to take on his current role in the West End.

"I've grown a little bit older and a little bit slower so I've graduated to Skimbleshanks the railway cat," purrs the amiable Bristol-born actor.

"It's a terribly physical show so it's a question of what your body is able to do. If you're a youngster you can go cartwheeling around but I'm 36 now. I did two shows yesterday. You do get tired."

But this particular moggie isn't yowling. Matthew says he's delighted to be back in a show that has proved such an audience-pleaser (gross box office takings for the London production alone topped pounds 115m in 1999).

"Because it's an ensemble show, there aren't really any stars. …

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