Pros: Fantastic achievement with acting company, hard hitting issue retold with respect.
Cons: Musical numbers distanced the subject, dialogue scenes preferred.
It is hard to fathom that fifty years has passed since Ken Loach’s original story of homelessness and desperation was told, as statistics show that ultimately very little has changed. The plight of thousands of dispossessed families across the country remains both hidden but yet in plain sight, the stone cold sobriety of seeing the numbers homeless in each major city in 2016 on screens, juxtaposed with the actors stating the 1966 figures, which are interchangeable. This one night only production of Cathy serves as a contextual counteraction against the invisibility of the housing crisis. The cast are not trained thespians, but real people who have experienced homelessness in reality. Instead of hiding behind the curtain, the actors are dispersed among the audience, gradually populating the stage in their own time, until they are seated in a line in shabby trench coats, waiting for something that may never come.
Having left her respectable but loveless familial home, Cathy finds Reg, a young lorry driver and soon they are married with small children. Money is always tight but they get by, relying on their love more so than material possessions. Reg sadly loses his job after an accident, and as Cathy is pregnant with a small child already, they find themselves suddenly go from two incomes to none. Eventually due to rent arrears they are unceremoniously evicted from their home, and what follows is a downwards spiral of helpless degeneration, as everything the family owns is stripped away, and when there is nothing for the government left to take, they take Cathy’s children. It is a truly heart-breaking moment when Cathy attempts to take her children to the train station, but they are ripped from her hands by faceless officials.
The company clearly had worked very hard on this project, providing a diverse range which challenged the stigmatism surrounding the subject. It felt incredibly relevant and real. My only critique is that the play could have done without the various musical numbers, the actors were at their strongest with dialogue and I felt these sequences distanced the audience just at the moment we were at our closest. Nevertheless the standing ovation at the close proved testament to the poignant power Cathy brought to the Barbican. An animated panel discussion of the crisis featuring Ken Loach further enhanced the importance of using art to highlight real socio-economic issues.
Director and Adaptor: Tony McBride
Production: Cardboard Citizens
Performed on: 05/07/2016