Moscow hunts for theatre's missing star cat

Missing Russian actor cat Semyon with fellow U Mosta theatre actor Image copyright U Mosta Theatre
Image caption Semyon, here with a fellow U Mosta actor, was due to make his Moscow debut on Thursday

A campaign is under way to find a "stunningly handsome" cat who was set to star in a Russian theatre company tour, only to escape from his travelling basket at Moscow railway station.

Semyon, a fluffy black-and-white moggy, had arrived in the capital from the city of Perm, along with the award-winning U Mosta theatre company. He was due to star in its production of Martin McDonagh's black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which revolves around an escalating bloodbath over an allegedly dead cat that turns up alive at the end - having been out "gallivanting".

But Semyon somehow slipped out of his basket at Yaroslavsky Station and vanished without a trace, in what Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper describes as a case of life imitating art.

Image copyright U Mosta Theatre
Image caption Is Semyon off gallivanting, like the character he portrays?

"Terrible news! Our talented artist and audience favourite Semyon has vanished in mysterious circumstances - or has he defected to our rivals?" U Mosta posted on its Facebook page. Despite the somewhat jocular tone of the post, the theatre company seems genuinely concerned about Semyon, who it says has "remarkable magnetism". It provides a contact number for any sightings, and has asked people to share the appeal widely.

U Mosta actors have been praising Semyon's general professionalism in statements to the Russian media, although there was an incident earlier this month when he missed his cue and strolled on stage during a completely different play. They suspect that the big city bustle scared him and he fled, but say they still don't know how his basket came to be open.

There's no suggestion among social media users that this might be a publicity stunt, and most comments are supportive, offering practical advice on who to speak to amid fears that such a handsome cat may have been stolen. One jokes that Semyon's "artistic temperament" means he's gone looking for more drink after a heavy session on the long train journey from Perm, while another suggests he's found a Muscovite lady friend with a flat in a chic part of town.

Some criticise taking a cat on "such a stressful trip", but attention is focused above all on finding Semyon before he's due to go on stage for his Moscow debut on Thursday.

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