DramaReviewSouth West

Cathy – BikeShed Theatre, Exeter

Written: Ali Taylor 
Directed: Adrian Jackson
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts 

This year sees 25 years of Cardboard Theatre creating thought-provoking performances with and for homeless people. Touring theatres, hostels, day centres and prisons their latest offering, Cathy, is a hard-hitting look at just how easy it is to fall between the cracks.

tell-us-block_editedInspired by Ken Loach’s award-winning film Cathy Come Home, Cathy tells the story of one single mother who’s forced out of her privately rented London flat when her hours get cut. Cathy’s story is one that is all too familiar, as she and her teenage daughter are evicted, put into emergency housing and eventually offered relocation. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to Cathy struggles to support her daughter through her exams and get back on her feet.

The acting is superb throughout this 80-minute play, Cathy and her daughter, Danielle, played by Cathy Owen and Hayley Warhead respectively. The raw emotion that each brings to the part is a testament to their exceptional talents and to that of Ali Taylor, the play’s writer. The other characters – of which there are many, are played by Amy Loughton and Alex Jones, each convincingly embodying characters from landlords to housing association assistants.

Beautifully staged, the set is cleverly designed to be manipulated into multiple locations, as well as create fitting backdrops for projection of real life stories to be played as scenes change. A Jenga-like stack of wooden bricks not only allows pieces to be removed to create ever-changing locations and a tower block is a permanent fixture but also acts as a reminder of how easy it is for everything to fall apart. How just by removing a couple of pieces, something that had always been strong suddenly becomes unstable.

The narrative is engaging and the characterisation believable and relatable. Its basis in reality creates a sense that Cathy is all of us, and could so easily be any of us. It has been 50 years since Ken Loach’s original film Cathy Come Home was released and things have only gotten worse in terms of housing. Cathy demonstrates the injustices and hypocrisies of our housing system and the impact that this has on families around the country.

A Forum Theatre production, Cathy comes with an interactive opportunity to change the story. The Forum after the performance shifts the power to the audience, giving them a chance to give their opinion and ultimately change the outcome for the characters.

This is life-changing theatre that takes a look at the human cost of the housing crisis. Not only an excellent play, but an important one.

Runs until 26 November 2016 then touring nationally until 9 February 2017 | Image: Pamela Raith

For further information visit www.cardboardcitizens.org.uk

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