‘a cat’s pyjamas of a double-bill’
Following from her huge success with Tristan Bernays’ OLD FOOLS at Southwark Playhouse director Sharon Burrell shows she has a magic comic touch with this double bill of animal-themed comedies. Penned by popular Australian writers Brendan Cowell and Lally Katz these are two separate stories about man, woman and beast but while the stories are different the themes are similar and the little synergies between the two plays make them sing. Sometimes literally.
In Cowell’s dog-themed tale (or should that be tail?) we meet loser Ben (Thomas Blackburne), scruffy owner of over-sexed mutt Jerry Seinfeld. Ben keeps bumping into bright university lecturer Miracle (Gemma Harvey) and over the course of their meetings they share their stories of lost love, new beginnings and poo bags. The fly in the ointment is high-energy Marcus (Frederick Di Rosa) who co-owns Jerry Seinfeld and is making puppy dog eyes at Miracle too. Like all good pet owners, however, Miracle has a firm grip on the lead and a romantic picnic has an unexpected outcome. What writer Cowell does so well is cut out any extraneous action which keeps the love-triangle ticking along at a bouncy pace and ensures the audience are leaning in.
In the second play we meet gloomy Albert (Di Rosa again) who is in the process of splitting from wife Alex (Harvey) and this time it’s the cat that they co-own. The mog comes in the form of a brilliantly languorous Blackburne who with a whisk of his tail and a raised eyebrow conveys that particular brand of feline disdain that all cat-owners are familiar with. As Alex discovers a new and exciting life that involves saucy nights with her Capoeira instructor and even gloomy Albert starts dating again the cat decides it’s time to take matters into his own paws. With a little help from The Parent Trap and Nicki Minaj he sets about reuniting his humans while carving out a new career for himself. The Cat is delightfully bonkers and without letting the cat out of the bag I don’t think anyone could have predicted the ending.
The two contrasting plays are linked by clever use of language and motifs (Birkenstocks, Capoeira, Marvin Gaye) and it’s these touches that give the evening a cohesion and mark it out as a cleverly curated whole. While the bang up to date references and Britishisms switch the action from Australia to the UK there’s no jarring and the switch works well.
All three actors are super and were tested to the limit with accent, character and costume changes. Burrell keeps things ticking along at a good pace and ensures the cast work closely together. Kudos must go to Blackburne’s cat- always understated, never obvious but as devious as we’ve always suspected our cats might be. A cat’s pyjamas of a double-bill.
Photography credit: Joe Twigg Photography
The Dog / The Cat by Brendan Cowell and Lally Katz
Directed by Sharon Burrell
Presented by To The Moon and Right Forward High Theatre
The Hope Theatre 4 - 22 September
Siân Rowland is a playwright and comedy writer represented by Kitson Press.