Cathy by Ali Taylor – TR2, Plymouth

Cardboard Citizen’s brought their production of Cathy to TR2, a brief stop on their current tour of the show. As it was being performed in a rehearsal room this version of the play was stripped back and basic, but still packed an emotional punch.

Originally written as part of Cardboard Citizens 25th anniversary celebrations, Cathy is inspired by Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home. Unfortunately, the issue of homelessness is still as pertinent today as it was in the 60s. For this performance the majority of the audience was formed of TRP’s engagement groups, such as Our Space. Our Space is a group for adults with multiple and complex needs, stemming from issues such as addiction, homelessness or social isolation. The aim of the group is to forge healthy social interaction, build confidence and encourage engagement with the theatre. I’m not always keen on outreach groups being made to watch plays that detail struggles similar to what they have experienced (the Exeunt article I’ve linked below explains why in much better words than I could come up with). However, in this case the attendees were aware of what they would be watching and had opted to attend. Cardboard Citizens also facilitated a discussion afterwards too which made things inclusive.

It’s testament to the show’s writing that the majority of the audience identified with what they’d seen, with many stating they had experienced a lot of the play’s events themselves. Cathy is the story of a mother and daughter who, after missing a couple of rent payments, find themselves in increasingly desperate situations. The current housing system for those in need is portrayed in all its inadequacies. It’s definitely not easy viewing. Some wry laughs here and there but overall the play is as difficult to watch as you would imagine with its subject matter. That’s not to say you shouldn’t see it! It’s great piece of work with stunningly realistic performances from all of the cast. The set design is interesting too, with what appears to be giant Jenga blocks being moved around to form each new environment, symbolising their transient homes. It’s a piece worth seeing, particularly for those who struggle to comprehend how a person could end up homeless.

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