+3 Interview: The Cat Man Curse

“The whole thing has a very collaborative, home-made kind of feel.”

WHO: Sam, Writer/Performer

WHAT: The Cat Man Curse is a whirlwind comedy by ex-Footlights Jordan, Sam and Guy. Using sketch, clown and physical theatre, Pelican balance a cartoonish narrative with playfulness and improvisation to tell the story of a bizarre mystery. When TV actor Charles Heron (famous for playing hotshot lawyer Harvey Hardtruth) is struck by an old Hollywood curse, he needs legal advice from a real-life solicitor, Mark Swift. Thrown into a kaleidoscopic 1970s noir investigation, the unlikely pair must come together to solve a mystery that’s wildly funny.”

WHERE: Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49) ​

WHEN: 20:00 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

We’ve each done shows at the festival before (ranging from sketch shows to the single most terrible performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Edinburgh history staring Sam aged 15) but this year’ll be the first time that we’ve come up as a company made up of the three of us, so it very much feels like a new adventure.

Tell us about your show.

The Cat Man Curse is basically a high-energy surreal comedy show. It’s a 1970s noir narrative that tells the story of Charles Heron, a TV actor famous for playing the hot-shot lawyer Harvey Hardtruth in a popular law show. Everything’s going great for Heron until he’s struck by an ancient Hollywood Curse and finds his life in grave danger. Think fast-paced, madcap and surreal.

The three of us write and perform the show and the whole thing is brought together by our amazing director Lucy who, as well as directing, choreographs it all. We also write our own soundtrack and make all our own props and costumes, so hopefully the whole thing has a very collaborative, home-made kind of feel.

We all met at university and started making shows together whilst we were there. Each of us came to Pelican (our company) from quite different performance backgrounds, ranging from film to music to theatre. It’s been really exciting bringing those different experiences together and seeing what kind of thing we make as a group. As a result we think that The Cat Man Curse is a real mix: part physical comedy, part storytelling, part dance show.

We’ve been really lucky to get the chance to develop the show over a long period of time. We did a work in progress version of it at VAULT Festival in London back in January and have developed it at festivals in Paris and Brighton through the year. We’ve also got another preview coming up at The Bill Murray pub in London on July 26th before we head up to Edinburgh where we’ll be performing the first full version of the show.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

There is so much!

We think Juan Vesuvius: I am Your Deejay is great, especially if you’re into your Venezuelan calypso comedy.

We also loved Peter and Bambi Heaven last year and we’re very excited to catch them again.


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The Pillowman (Bedlam Theatre 2 – 6 Feb. ’16)

Scott Meenan as Katurian. Photo: Mollie Hodkinson

 “This show  will wring the life out of you, in the best way possible.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars Outstanding

Pillowman is to dark comedy what heroin is to vapor rub. Martin McDonagh’s tale of bloody flesh and fairytales is dark, dirty and sometimes barefacedly brutal – and in the hands of director Emily Aboud, often stingingly clever as well.

Set in a faceless concrete prison, ‘Pillowman’ tells the story of writer Katurian questioned about gory child murders strongly resembling the short stories he writes. Throw in a heaping helping of torture, a pinch of weirdly psychotic police banter and as much moral relativism as you can stomach, and you’ve got a play which (despite quite a few good laughs) stays tensely uncomfortable the entire way through. Make no mistakes: this show  will wring the life out of you, in the best way possible.

But a script without a director doesn’t get too far, and with Emily Aboud returning to the stage after her barnstorming production of Equus, there’s never any doubt it’s in safe hands. Apart from some strangely static blocking at the beginning, her overall vision for the production strikes gold: McDonagh’s work feels just as grittily surreal as it should.

And on the note of surreality, the set for this production is a gem- it’s not often I’ve seen twists dependent entirely on clever set design, let alone done so with such skill. There were some design choices, though, which seemed less prudent than others: a series of videos projected onto the stage wall would have had twice the impact if performed live. Whilst the presentation detracted nothing, it was slightly disappointing to think of its potential. And to sound designer Alex Greenwald, I’ll say only this: The low ambient drone? Fantastically slithery.

Luckily, the propitious problem of wasted potential is brilliantly absent from the cast. Theatre veteran Scott Meenan captures the quiet intensity of Katurian excellently. Subtle yet passionate is a hard duality to pull off, so it was a joy to see it done so well. And even more so when combined with Douglas Clark as Michal: the burden of the fool in black comedy is a heavy one, but Clark makes the part feel as natural as breathing.

Hot off the heels of EUSOG’s Addams Family, Esmee Cook expertly runs the emotional gamut as wonderfully sadistic second-in-command Ariel – but the indisputable star of the police parade is Paddy Echlin as Detective Tupolski. Sardonic and hilariously removed from normal logic, Echlin dominated the stage whenever his annoyingly wrong tie came flapping through the set doors.

The supporting cast were noticeably solid, especially in terms of physical theatre – Sian Davies in particular has a peculiar knack for playing tragically adorable kids.

With such energy and dynamism throughout, however, it was a disappointment to see the production fall into the trap of lengthy and jarring set changes. For a piece which, in every other aspect, set up a wonderfully naturalistic and believable surreality of tone, these seemed like a strange choice. They were luckily few and far between, but are still a bit like stopping a delicious meal to eat a couple of handfuls of packing peanuts.

Overall, I was impressed by Pillowman. It has creative and well-crafted direction and maintains the kind of thick atmosphere most other shows could only dream of (although, making the Bedlam Theatre feel like a freezing cell requires little help). Combine with stellar acting and a well-chosen crew, and you’ve got a production that’ll knock your socks off  –  and then probably strangle you with them, but still.

 

outstanding

StarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 3 February)

Go to Pillowman at Bedlam here.

Visit Edinburgh49’s Bedlam archive.

‘The Fantasticks’ (Bedlam: 9 – 12 Oct ’13)

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Image by Louise Spence

“Performed in New York almost continuously since 1960, The Fantasticks is a curiously-constructed musical.  The first act is cutesy – sometimes to a fault – telling the knowingly-ridiculous tale of a forbidden teenage romance, and of two fathers’ efforts to control their love-struck offspring.”

Editorial Rating: Unrated

“Try to remember the kind of September / When life was slow, and oh, so mellow,” exhorts The Fantasticks’ famed opening song. Well, they’ve missed September by a week or two, but in every other respect Edinburgh University Theatre Company have fulfilled that brief: this is a warm-hearted, uncomplicated production, which gently lulls you backwards into an agreeably nostalgic haze.  Sadly, however, the lyric also foretells this production’s main weakness.  It’s all just a little bit slow.

Performed in New York almost continuously since 1960, The Fantasticks is a curiously-constructed musical.  The first act is cutesy – sometimes to a fault – telling the knowingly-ridiculous tale of a forbidden teenage romance, and of two fathers’ efforts to control their love-struck offspring.  But after the interval, the scenes grow dream-like and altogether darker, in a dislocating transition which this particular production never quite pulled off.  It doesn’t help that the original boy-meets-girl plot is wrapped up by the end of Act One, leaving the second half to lumber away from an awkward standing start.

But we can’t blame EUTC for the plot’s idiosyncrasies, and they’ve certainly had fun responding to its old-style American charm. Jordan Robert-Laverty neatly captures the clean-cut naivety of a 1950’s college boy, while Claire Saunders excels as his swooning 16-year-old paramour, milking the comedy of her role without ever quite crossing the line into over-acting.  Saunders’ voice lends her songs an almost operatic tone, and contrasts nicely with the more natural style of Alexandre Poole – who brings an understated authority to his multi-faceted role as both villain and narrator.

Muscially, however, the performance suffered from frustrating inconsistency, with almost all the actors delivering showstopping performances for some songs while clearly struggling with others.  The surprising exceptions were Daniel Harris and Thomas Ware, playing the two teenagers’ warring fathers; their characters seem at first to be formulaic comedy chumps, but soon prove to be far more.  Harris and Ware both have fine, comforting voices, and their harmonising duets proved a thoroughly unexpected highlight – enhanced by some genuinely witty, if slightly methodical, dance.

Indeed, the whole production demonstrates a playful sense of physicality, with an impressive swordfight (and gloriously extended death scene) raising the stakes just before the interval.  But whenever the pace wasn’t being dictated by the music, the energy ebbed away.

So EUTC’s production isn’t quite fantastic – but it’s an enjoyable, stylish, and life-affirming version of a cosily charming musical. Credit must also go to pianist Dan Glover and harpist (yes, harpist) Sam MacAdam, whose position at the side of the stage brings them very much into the heart of the performance.  It’s a show I’ll be sure to remember.