Sunday, July 3

Herding Cats – Soho Theatre

As I was not able to make the live performance, this review was conducted virtually.  Even though I was not in attendance at Soho Theatre, it was thrilling to hear the buzz of the audience as they found their seats, with a feeling that live theatre is once again possible.  To enhance this experience, Soho Theatre have used new technology to deliver the first of its kind, a transatlantic theatre experience with two actors performing live on Soho Theatre’s stage, while a US based actor performs live in a studio in LA.  

To prepare us for this modern age experience, the staging has a backdrop of a large screen which will be used to beam actor Greg Germann (Saddo), virtually onto the stage.  The play begins with Justine (Sophie Melville) unpacking her shopping, onto a very large kitchen counter.  She chats to Michael (Jassa Ahluwalia) as she unpacks.  Justine has had a bad day, one of many, and her normal practice is to unload her grievances onto her flatmate Michael.  As Michael sees very little of the outside world, Justine’s daily moans give him a dose of the reality of the outside world, as his job is anything but normal. 

Michael’s tiny world is the flat and his job which is to chat to some very odd individuals; his most prolific client is Saddo (Germann).  As Saddo begins to talk to Michael, we see the reality of their lives, one has serious mental issues, and one uses their chats to make money.   Without realising it, they have each become dependent on the other for company, but the twisted nature of their relationship, leaves a feeling of foreboding.

Photograph: Danny Kaan

The dialogue can be brutal and the techno back drop gives it a feeling of coldness and loneliness, as though these three people are reaching out, but no-one really hears them.  As a member of the audience, it did feel as though we had only heard part of the story and I did feel that the experience would have been enhanced with more of a back story for Saddo, as his character lacked depth because of a lack of context – you cannot be that disturbed without a dark history. 

Putting on a play with a transatlantic connection must have been a challenge for the theatre, but the evening went without a hitch, and the technology won the day.  Maybe, the use of this technology gave the play an added feeling of distance from reality, and that even though this play was written about the lives of these three people, it felt as though Justine. Michael and Saddo, have become detached from reality and human contact.  Justine’s proclamation that the company she worked for would not survive without her, spoke of her loneliness and a wish to feel needed.  She makes light of her unhappiness by throwing acidic humour into her diatribe, but it does not detract from her exasperation at her situation.

This is a play for our times even though it was written some years ago.  At a time when physical contact has been restricted and feelings of loneliness and distance have been an unsatisfactory by-product of the pandemic, this play speaks to us. 

The team at Soho Theatre are to be congratulated as their gamble has paid off and their collaboration with Stellar to bring this transatlantic experience was a success.  The direction by Anthony Banks and the performances from all three actors, embellished the story and drew us into their rather odd world, but I was left with a feeling that something was missing. 

Altogether the play is an enjoyable, if slightly uncomfortable play to watch.  The theatre team and performers delivered a technically exciting play, I just have reservations about the writing and character development, which I feel could be improved.

Tickets can be purchased for seats at Soho Theatre by following this link: 

https://sohotheatre.com/shows/herding-cats/ or to view online go to Stellar’s website to book online tickets https://www.stellartickets.com/o/herding-cats/events/herding-cats?aff=soho  Tickets are currently available for 21st – 22nd May, but from 24th May tickets will be available from Stellar to watch the show ‘On Demand’ between 7th– 21st June.

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 20th May 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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