Cat City – review by Gully Thompson

0 Elliott Ave, Parkville VIC 3052, Melbourne Zoo 2018
Polyglot Theatre

Polyglot had a ‘pawesome’ time at Melbourne Zoo in June 2018 with a very special one-off project – Cat City. Created to promote the Zoos Victoria Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife community conservation campaign, Cat City was an immersive play space filled with cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and yarn. Participants made their own cat characters, and then prowled around exploring the cardboard city, building tunnels, hidden forts and secret sleeping spaces. 12-year old Gully Thompson reviewed the experience.

“As we stood in the line to enter Cat City, I came to notice two things. The first being the man with cat ears taped to his head and a long paper tail who was purring and brushing around our legs, and the second being the Luna Park-esque entrance gates made entirely from cardboard.

Inside, the grandiose Melbourne Zoo Leopard Lounge had been transformed to an amusement park built for cats! Around me I saw decorations from cat carriers, to kitty litter trays, even a set for a funny cat video. A cat trap composed of yarn strung from one side of a cardboard circle to the other offering a challenging escape without tripping a single string which would cause bells to go off. “It’s basically like Mission: Impossible,” I’m told as I watch kids making various attempts to cross the cat trap. Bath tubs filled with bubble wrap, cardboard box mazes, all of these areas of play make me wonder, “What’s the meaning behind all of this?”

And that’s why this show is possibly the cleverest production by Polyglot I’ve ever seen.

Whilst you may first encounter Cat City as a play space of fun and amusement, it leaves behind a subliminal message of inspiration and creativity. Without becoming too obvious, Cat City plants the idea of creating play spaces for your pets indoors, so that they may remain safe and not bored, and not out and about without supervision, becoming a threat to wildlife. Without even announcing the Zoos Victoria campaign, Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife, Cat City is able to put you into the shoes of your own pets, exploring their new play spaces, without children even realising the clever creativity that has been put to work behind the scenes.

Not only a subliminal campaign for wildlife and an amusement park/playground, Cat City offers a stunningly intricately designed framework of a set, comprising cardboard boxes, yarn, cellophane, tape and the occasional bathtub, plus a suitably cool cat jazz backing track, increasing that atmosphere of the ever-slinky and sly cat.

Cat City is a giant cat’s amusement park, with a complex set and no instructions for play, ultimately leaving everything in the child’s hands as so many great Polyglot shows do. Its premise of building and creating houses and towers is very similar to one of Polyglot’s older shows, We Built This City, while also doing the equivalent of turning you into a cat and letting you walk around a cat playground, showing kids how much fun these cat play spaces can be. Something that seems like an impossible task, yet when put in the hands of the creative minds behind Polyglot, it’s as simple as taking a cat nap.

The fun and games had for all ages, the output of new creative skills and most impressive of all, the message behind the scenes produced in a way that is so subtle, yet remarkable at the same time, makes this show well and truly the cat’s pyjamas.”

Cat City photography by Rainbow Sweeny





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