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The Cat’s Mother, The Courtyard

Pericles Snowdon
Directed by Natalie Scott and Joseph Thorpe
★★★

Pros: An interesting idea, with some good collaborative work by this group of young women, who are working hard to increase the presence of women on the stage.

Cons: The script, while strong in places, needed more active development by the directors and the performances suffer as a result of this.

Our Verdict: Not going to go down in history as one of the greatest pieces of theatre ever created, but an interesting, gripping piece which provides some good roles for young women.

Courtesy of FoxedUP Theatre

It was with great trepidation that I ventured into Hoxton to see the new play, The Cat’s Mother. It wasn’t the play I was worried about – I was going into that with a completely open mind. In fact I was rather excited to see the up-and-coming all female theatre group FoxedUP at work in this new play commissioned for them. No, the fear stemmed mainly from my worries about being smothered by over-sized jumpers and stabbed by the lenses of thick-framed glasses. I am definitely not hipster enough to hang about in Hoxton. But The Courtyard, a subterranean revelation to me, whilst being very much at home in the cool neighbourhood is still pleasantly laid back and welcoming.

The play itself is an exploration of memory, the way we manipulate it and try to control it, and how too often it comes to control us instead. One woman’s fascination with memory palaces and the facts that she can force them to contain rather backfires when a building she looks after and has turned into a palace takes a mysterious turn and forces her to face an alarming episode from her past. This exploration of memory becomes a beguiling and fascinating mystery that genuinely had me enthralled. More information than that, and I’d spoil the suspense of the piece, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

The script itself is strong if a little underdeveloped in places, and once the play has been running for a few days and the pacing is tightened up this could be a very good show. It’s OK now, but I can’t help feel that with stronger direction better performances could be drawn from this clearly talented group of young women. Having said this, it’s a very collaborative piece, where individual roles are often secondary to the emotion and drama evoked by the group as a whole, and consequently individual weak performances are less concerning than they might otherwise be. In places the characters appear simply 2D and shallow – if this was on purpose, and there is a clear narrative reason that this may be the case, then it was not obvious enough for me to not just find it a little frustrating in places. On a positive note, I do have to solo out Lucy Fazey, who played Tabitha, our central character, and who gave an excellent performance and tethered the strands of the show together admirably.

FoxedUP state that their aim is to create ‘strong credible roles and stories for women in theatre’, and that is clearly what they are attempting to achieve here. Women remain underrepresented in the exciting roles of theatre, too often just the love interest or foil, and I hope they continue to produce interesting new work. This piece of theatre itself isn’t going to change the face of British theatre, but works well in reinforcing how men aren’t necessary for a play to have strong central characters and a gripping storyline.

I might also add that finding a packet of love-hearts on your seat will always go someway to winning me over…

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Cat’s Mother runs at The Courtyard in Hoxton until 8th December 2012.
Box Office: 0844 477 1000 or book online at http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/whatson/281/the-cats-mother

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