Off Stage

How Dr Seuss' Cat met Cate Blanchett

The lead character in The Little Company's Dr Seuss' The Cat In The Hat is played by British actor Joseph Houston (second from left).
The lead character in The Little Company's Dr Seuss' The Cat In The Hat is played by British actor Joseph Houston (second from left). PHOTO: SRT'S THE LITTLE COMPANY

Because of his height, British musical theatre performer Joseph Houston has problems getting certain roles. Standing at 1.83m, the 25-year-old says he seldom gets lead or ensemble roles.

But his height, it appears, is perfect for the lead character in The Little Company's Dr Seuss' The Cat In The Hat. The Little Company is the Singapore Repertory Theatre's children's wing and the play is running at the DBS Arts Centre.

Being tall has its advantages, Houston says. Using one's body for comedy is easier for a taller person because he "has more to work with".

His theatre credits include the United Kingdom tour of A Christmas Carol, the British and European tour of Bill Kenwright's Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the Ian Talbot-directed The Wizard Of Oz.

Together with his partner, Houston will soon open Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, London, where fringe theatre, which is experimental in style or subject matter, will be performed.

  • BOOK IT / DR SEUSS' THE CAT IN THE HAT

    WHERE: DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road

    WHEN: Till Sept 27, 10am (Tuesday to Friday); 11am and 2pm (Saturday and Sunday)

    ADMISSION: $22 to $45 for standard tickets and $85 to $171 for family packages for four persons from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: Recommended for children aged two to six

What is it about performing that you are passionate about?

I live for musical theatre, which brings together acting, singing, dance, epic musical scores and playing a character.

I get such a thrill when I am playing characters that are nothing like or far away from who I am. It is the best feeling ever when you can stand on a stage and completely embody a character and make an audience believe you are a butler, ugly sister, Hungarian and, of course, a cat.

What did you do to help you get into character for this role?

I looked at other Dr Seuss characters from an old cartoon version of the show - which helped me find a silly but posh voice for the cat - and the 2000 movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The cat is not as mean as the Grinch, but it was good to see how another Dr Seuss character moved.

The costume also helps a great deal with getting into character. When I am decked out in the belly, cat suit, whiskers and hat, I really feel like I have become the cat.

What has been your favourite moment on stage?

When Cate Blanchett and her husband, screenwriter Andrew Upton, watched The Pirates Of Penzance when we toured in Australia. They were the artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company at the time we performed. They watched the performance twice.

Blanchett is an actress I admire because she tends to play characters far away from who she is and she really challenges herself as an actress.

She was such a friendly, warm person - she came backstage to congratulate all of us.

What was the biggest mistake you made on stage and how did you react?

Once, in a production of My Fair Lady, I was wearing a false moustache on stage which decided to fall off mid-scene. The whole theatre burst into laughter.

In live theatre, such things happen, so I just put it in my pocket and carried on.

I think audiences secretly like it when things go a little awry as it makes them feel part of the performance in a way.

What is the first thing you think of when you walk off stage?

The first thing I think about is the response we have just gotten from the audience. Audiences differ and sometimes you get an audience on its feet and roaring and sometimes it simply claps.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Tall order for Dr Seuss' cat'. Print Edition | Subscribe