REVIEW: Mog the Forgetful Cat, The Wardrobe Ensemble (The Old Vic)

Judith Kerr’s series of Mog books have long been a staple of children’s bookshelves, delighting families of feline fans for over fifty years . Although cats don’t typically roam far from home, Mog is having quite the adventure as she tours across the UK. Adapted by The Wardrobe Ensemble (in a co-production with The Old Vic & Royal & Derngate, Northampton), Mog the Forgetful Cat is currently playing at The Old Vic, ahead of a summer stint at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The adaptation, directed by Helena Middleton and Jesse Jones, neatly weaves together three beloved Mog stories (Mog the Forgetful Cat, Mog and the Vee Ee Tee and Mog’s Bad Thing) to create a fun and familiar stage show for young audiences. Filled with lively original songs by Joey Hickman, and plenty of great observational humour for those who have ever lived with a cat (or, indeed, other humans) it’s an enjoyable production for all ages (perhaps wisely steering away from the rather more sombre Goodbye Mog, which might be deserving of an adaptation all of its own).

Image credit: Paul Blakemore

As anyone who was organised in their pre-parenting days will attest, time-keeping is something of a challenge when you’re accompanied by a small human, so it’s a very nice touch to kick the show off with a soft start; Mr Bunce (Tom England) gets the young audience going with an interactive session, giving latecomers the opportunity to slip seamlessly into their seats without missing any of the action.

When things do get going, Mr Bunce steps into the role of narrator, beginning – of course – with the tale of how Mog’s forgetfulness gets her into all sorts of trouble until she inadvertently thwarts a burglar and becomes the pride of Thomas household. It’s a nicely paced slink through the oldest and most familiar of the Mog tales before the fun ramps up for the slightly sillier more recent stories.

Anyone who has a cat will undoubtedly enjoy the scenes in which Mrs Thomas (Kerry Lovell) has to wrangle the enraged feline to the vet, and feel for Mr Thomas (Ben Vardy) when his beloved armchair becomes the victim of a dirty protest; we can attest that, however many wood floors you have, feline bodily fluids always find their way onto some sort of sort of soft furnishing!

Image credit: Paul Blakemore

Laura McEwen’s gorgeous set design, including a giant cat flap, is a real highligh and pleasingly fits seamlessly into the existing Groundhog Day set at The Old Vic. There are also some fun costumes, particularly in the scene at the vet’s waiting room in which the cast double up as pets and their owners. A stylistic choice has been made to have Mog (Georgina Goodchild) played by a human in a costume bearing little resemblance to the original illustrations. This works surprisingly well, giving Mog the ability to move, cat-like, around the multilevel set far better than she could in a cartoonish costume or puppet form.

Overall, Mog the Forgetful Cat is a well-crafted, authentic adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic story books, which will have young audiences purring with delight.

Mog the Forgetful Cat plays at The Old Vic from 11 to 29 July 2023. We received a complimentary press ticket to the performance on 12 July.

Image credit: Paul Blakemore