Theatre review: The Cat’s Mother at the Courtyard Theatre

11:23 23 November 2012

The Cat

The Cat's Mother at the Courtyard Theatre. Photo by Jonathan Constant

Archant

A group of women who have been friends since school delve into their past in Pericles Snowdon’s new play

What do you remember from your childhood – and what have you chosen to forget? These are the questions at the heart of Pericles Snowdon’s sinister and compelling new play, performed by an all-female cast at the Courtyard Theatre.

The play opens with six women awakening in what looks like an abandoned warehouse, each of them dressed as a 1980s cartoon character. They’ve been friends since primary school, it transpires, and are now in their late 20s.

With the arrival of Tabitha Porlock – another friend – the girls cast their minds back to the eve of their adolescence. Along with predictable recollections of toys, pets and imaginary friends, they start to excavate darker memories – which lead to the revelation of a deadly secret.

Lucy Fazey is convincing as the troubled Tabitha, who hoards relics from her childhood into ‘memory palaces’ – a concept recently popularised by BBC’s Sherlock. Perched on the edge of the stage, with the air of a child showing off at a spelling bee, she gleefully recites each stop on the Northern line via Bank.

This is not a relaxing evening: as resentments surface, most of the lines are spat across the stage and the oestrogen level is almost too much to bear. The only relief comes from Snowdon’s ingenious invented urban legends – some inspired from his own childhood – such as a monster made from Findus Crispy Pancakes and Chicken Drummers and the Beast of Bakerloo which had younger members of the audience in stitches.

A clever set design by Ian Latimer suggests an eerie memory junkyard, scattered with old toys. Meanwhile, fantasy fiction writer Catherine Webb’s lighting and Becky Evans’ costumes – ranging from that of a bedraggled Roman centurion to a Care Bear outfit – give the overall impression of a weird school play, faded by memory.

In the end, though, Snowdon’s rather random scrapbook of memories leaves the audience possibly even more confused than the characters themselves. Until December 8.

* The Cat’s Mother is at the Courtyard Theatre in Bowling Green Walk, N1, until December 8. Tickets from TicketWeb on 0844 477 1000 or www.ticketweb.co.uk.

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