Cathy review: visceral, poignant and compelling documentary theatre


by Maxwell Modell

I remember receiving a flyer for Cathy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. It was a show I wished I could have seen then, but short on time and money, I couldn’t fit in into my schedule. Fast forward 8 months and it’s at the Wales Millennium Centre and I finally had my opportunity to see it. It didn’t disappoint.

Cathy is an updated version of Ken Loach’s Cathy Comes Home addressing the issue of homelessness and social housing 50 years on from Ken Loach’s landmark work. As such it was developed in a similar way constructing a fictional narrative inspired by true stories and interviews with homeless people and others involved in social housing schemes.

The narrative follows single mother Cathy and her daughter Danielle as they navigate the social housing system after receiving a section 21 eviction notice. Unsurprisingly considering the inspiration the play is reminiscent of Ken Loach’s latest film I, Danial Blake, a story of love in the worst of circumstances as bureaucracy and lack of opportunities crush everything that once constituted Cathy and Danielle’s life.

All of this contributes towards a heart-wrenching experience which manages to be both introspective and extrospective, encouraging the audience to look both within themselves and at the systems which form our society to ask what we can do differently to avoid situations such as that of Cathy and Danielle? This is all made possible by realistic dialogue, scenarios and powerhouse performances across the board. Cathy succeeds in creating visceral, poignant and compelling documentary theatre, not a style the medium is always suited to do due to the suspension of disbelief it requires.

However, all of this is almost irrelevant. It’s a fantastic piece of theatre but that isn’t what matters. What matters is the awareness it is raising of the homelessness crisis in the UK. We are constantly surrounded by it, yet it is so easy to turn a blind eye and ignore it from our position of privilege. Sometimes we need someone to open our eyes and force us to see and that is what Cathy does. It’s just a shame that the theatre was only half full.

For these reasons, I implore you to see Cathy. It will be playing again at the Welsh Millennium Centre in Cardiff on the 24th April before continuing on its tour through Swansea, Milford Haven, Aberystwyth and finally London. However, even if you can’t get to the play you can still get involved. At you can sign up for a weekly email for 8 weeks showcasing ideas suggested by the audience as to the things we can do to tackle the issues raised by the show. You never know, if we work hard and do something about this in another 50 years there might just be a version of Cathy telling a more uplifting story.