Cathy at Pleasance Theatre
If you’ve so much as glanced at the news over the past few years, the term “London housing crisis” won’t be new to you. Cathy, a new play by homeless charity and theatre company Cardboard Citizens, brings this problem into stark, poignant and pointed relief as it explores a tragic spiral for the titular single mum and her daughter. Based loosely on Ken Loach’s acclaimed 1966 drama Cathy Come Home, this tight and well-crafted piece by award-winning playwright Ali Taylor is a modern reimagining of what happens when the state fails to support those in need.
Cathy (Cathy Owen) is a born and bred Londoner, who has lived on “the estate” for years with her teenage daughter, Danielle (Hayley Wareham). But, with house prices rising, landlord Jay (Alex Jones) only has eyes for profit. Despite working three jobs, Cathy’s income and housing benefits combined aren’t enough to sate Jay’s financial appetite and they are shortly evicted, with no place to turn but the state. What follows is a sad spiral that leads mother and daughter from pillar to post to park bench as they move through an overwhelmed housing system that eventually fails them.
Along the way, Cathy sheds an unsympathetic light on the abilities of the state – and indeed Cathy’s fellow humans – to support those in need. Painted as a clear commentary on the current situation for tens of thousands of people across the country, Cathy elicits a powerful mixture of pity, sadness and shame as Cathy struggles to maintain normality on her journey: through a temporary bedsit, an estranged family member’s home and, eventually, strangers’ sofas. The message is clear, and well conveyed by the small cast, with Owen’s candid performance bringing a harsh reality to life onstage.
Another standout of Cathy is the bold move to keep the show going after the final curtain. Following a short intermission, audiences are invited back into the theatre for “forum theatre”. This freeform discussion of the story includes audience members getting on stage and throwing themselves into Cathy’s shoes as they attempt to do things differently. Although briefly hesitant, the crowd were quick to engage and, barring some egos that were quick to jump onstage and slow to exit, this made for a compelling end to an insightful – and impactful – piece of theatre.
Joan is at Pleasance Theatre 11th October until 15th October 2016, and touring nationwide until 9th February 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Cathy here: