Birdy returned to the Pleasance Dome with high hopes for her last show of the festival, and she strategically chose to end things on a high with Linus Karp’s How to Live a Jellicle Life.
Having seen Linus Karp in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story and it being my absolute favourite thing I’d seen at the Fringe this year, I swiftly booked myself into this, his other show.
It doesn’t feel like four years since Cats the musical came out, but it has been, and Linus isn’t going to let us forget it in a hurry. This hilariously queer and, at times, charming show takes us on a deep-delve journey into Cats and what it means to be jellicle and live a jellicle life.
Linus Karp arrives on stage in style – well, a very particular style, at least – in his tight feline print lycra bodysuit, furry headpiece, tail and a small pair of shorts, and performs an opening musical number complete with full choreography. It’s an introduction to Linus, and that he really likes Cats.
From this moment onwards, I’m absolutely captivated, as he takes us through various characters in the show, as well as answering important questions about the Heaviside Layer, what the aim of the cats really is, who is jellicle and why, and how we can all be more jellicle.
The vibe is Chaotic Good, quirky and a bit off-piste. The whole thing feels like it’s been done with such a passion and slightly obsessive charm about it, all the while pointing out just how ridiculous the movie actually is.
Linus has taken every absurd cue from the movie and absolutely ran with it, delivering it all with perfectly calm and pleasant manner throughout – which is what makes it so much fun.
You can imagine this version of Linus (in full cat gear) running a religious study group for two hours on a Sunday called something like The Jellicle Chapter. In fact, if he made that a regular YouTube show, I would watch it. Consider me converted.
I also found out what my jellicle name is: Skimpy Bottom, The Cat on Benefits. So, there’s that.
The show itself
Despite the chaos, and all the laughs, as a show it actually runs very smoothly, and Linus’s stage presence helps bring the whole thing together – despite people in the audience occasionally interjecting, which he handles without missing a beat.
Linus’s producer, tech support and life partner, Joseph Martin, is on hand with video, sound and music cues throughout – and it’s the little clips and graphics that make it all the more fun. Joseph also starts to explain the Heaviside Layer, but it all gets a bit much and we move on.
We are warned right at the start there’s full frontal nudity later in the show. Everyone stays anyway.
Linus then, with a certain level of glee, takes us through each Cats character. We learn about Jason Derulo’s Rum Tum Tugger being the sexiest of cats, and how Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots the Gumbie Cat likes to relax (which is also jellicle).
A few references are made to Dame Judi Dench‘s questionable fur coat, we have a minute’s silence for poor Gus (I laughed so much I almost choked) and we also learn that Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are probably siblings and having sex. We also learn who Linus’s favourite cat is.
Honestly, I could watch this all day. Linus Karp is an absolute gem and no doubt a rising star in UK comedy – and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Amazingly, quite a lot of people in the audience had never watched the 2019 version of Cats (whereas I had). If you haven’t, you’ll still enjoy the show, but you might get more out of it if you can manage to watch it first.
You also get a badge at the end!
How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life Lessons from the 2019 Hit Musical ‘Cats’ is a hilarious, camp, off-the-wall and ridiculous deep-dive journey into the 2019 film, and I want more where that came from.
In fact, I felt I could even sympathise with Linus a little, because this may be to him what The Dark Tower movie was to me. I could easily write an entire Fringe show about how terrible that movie is, but it’d probably mainly be me just angry ranting, and that’s the difference here.
I’d definitely recommend watching the film first, but you’ll still enjoy this award-winning show even if you don’t – and you can, like me, still be jellicle.
How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life Lessons from the 2019 Hit Musical ‘Cats’