Imagine a domestic black comedy written by Martin McDonagh. It’s a bit of an over-simplification, but that’s kind of the flavour of Erica Murray’s debut play. Directed by Jackie Fisher, The Cat’s Mother begins with Ciara (Doireann May White), a young Irish woman who has been living in London the past couple of years. Her younger sister Sinead (Philippa Carson) pays a visit, but rather than being happy or hoping to relax, she drops two bombshells. Firstly, she has brought their mother – who has Alzheimer’s – with her to London and is waiting downstairs. Secondly, in a lucid moment, their mother allegedly said she wanted to die. This being the case, Sinead wants Ciara to help fulfil this ‘wish’…
A lot of the play’s humour and tension arises from the different temperament and circumstances of the sisters. Since moving to London, Ciara is very much at home, living life in the big city. She’s beholden to no-one and has a full social life. For Sinead, looking after their mother is a full-time activity and despite trying to drop hints about ‘the situation’, Ciara hasn’t twigged about what Sinead’s really talking about.
The differences between the sisters doesn’t stop there. While Sinead believes in ‘the enterprise’, she also believes in the afterlife – that there is more to life than the here and now. Ciara, in contrast, doesn’t and asks other people oblique questions to help with her resolve.
Playing all the other people (zookeeper, personal trainer, ‘spirtual healer’) is Kate Kennedy. While the comedy of the sisters stems from their situation, Kennedy steals every scene she’s in with characters that are offbeat and naturally draw our attention.
As first-time plays go, The Cat’s Mother is a corker: original, very funny and has something to say about the unfair division of responsibilities within families.
© Michael Davis 2018
The Cat’s Mother ran at the Vault Festival on 7th and 8th February.