Not content with being the Toast of the Edinburgh Fringe with Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, theatre creator Linus Karp is doubling the silly, queer joy by reviving his previous show, How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life lessons from the 2019 hit musical ‘Cats’!
The 2019 movie musical, Cats!, earned six Razzies and was notoriously the biggest flop to have graced cinemas in recent years. “LIES!” insists the man onstage in the furry headdress and the animal print body suit. Of all the shows at the Edinburgh Fringe to rail against a post-Truth regime, How To Live A Jellicle Life was not top of our list of most likely – and yet, with a conspiracy theorist’s zeal, he unpacks the argument that “You have chosen to believe most people said it was bad…”
Although the film is almost four years old, Karp’s enthusiasm for Tom Hooper’s movie shows no sign of diminishing. Unarguably the campest Ted talk you’ll ever witness, he employs the latest, cutting-edge technology – a PowerPoint, MS Paint and a worrying amount of Comic Sans – to advocate his Jellicle message.
We venture through the star-studdied cast to introduce the movie to members of the audience who have never seen it (hsssss!). From Old Deuteronomy (“Judi Dench in a fur coat”) to Jennyanydots (played by Rebel Wilson, this Gumble Cat is clumsy and annoying or “Rebel Wilson in any given movie”), from the “twincentuous” siblings Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer to Skimbleshanks (“boring” or the “ultimate Daddy), the entire pussy posse are hilariously toyed with, one by one. The mere mention of Bustopher Jones earns an immediate and involuntary groan from the crowd – the second show at the Fringe for us where the mere mention of James Corden has drawn loud and impromtu disapproval from the audience.
If Linus’ oration seems somewhat freewheeling, Joseph Martin is on hand to inject some hard science into the show. Cats‘ fabled Heaviside Layer, he informs in a hilarious monotone, is real and exists as a layer of ionised gas occurring roughly between 90km and 150 km above the ground. His earnest boffinry is an unexpected, scene-stealing delight.
Two things stand out watching this performance, How To Live A Jellicle Life’s first outting at Edinburgh Fringe 2023. First, by dedicated hard work, by creating quirky, idiocyncratic shows such as Jellicle and Diana, by working social media relentlessly, Awkward Productions has found its tribe in the excitable shape of an ever-growing devoted, enthusiastic audience. And secondly, it’s quite remarkable how Linus’ confidence as a performer has grown. Compared even to 18 months ago when The Recs first saw Jellicle, Karp has become a bolder, more flamboyuant, more playful stage presence. Last Fringe, My Son’s A Queer catapulted Rob Madge into mainstream recognition – it’s only a matter of time for Linus Karp and his talent.
How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life lessons from the 2019 hit musical ‘Cats’ boasts the silly, queer aesthetic that Awkward Prodiuctions have made their own. Given how dark that the world can be currently for LGBTQ+ community, Linus Karp’s shining brand of Queer joy is just what we need for these times. And as for the other adjective, you should never mistake “silly” for “stupid” – as Dame Judi Dench wisely counsels: “A cat is not a dog!“
Queer comedy catnip is simply purrfect – ★★★★★ 5 stars