Review: The Cat With Hands

© New Project Theatre 2012

In the depths of London’s smallest theatre, something dark is happening. The inmates are restless, the staff are scared for their safety, and as gruesome events unfold, one man is caught up in the legend of ‘the cat with hands’.

Based on the short film by Robert Morgan, The Cat With Hands is the disturbing tale of a creature compiled of stolen body parts, desperate to become human, and the site of its final victim – the mental hospital of Glory’s Hope. This is the debut production of New Project Theatre, original script written by Cesca-Jayne Spruce (who also plays Matron), Kat Emmans, and Nick Page, featuring new music by Aaron Evans, and placed inside the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

Michael O’Neill was an unnerving narrator as the unusual Mr Johnson, the caretaker whose enthusiasm is borderline manic but his speech earnest and engaging. The hard-hearted and bottle-dependent Dr. Morgan (James Westbrook) descended into insanity from his apparently businesslike podium with a crumbling manner that signified the decay of the world around him without slipping into melodrama or farce. Two inmates were taken on by Grace Davis and Emma Glover, battling dramatic and disturbing ends that again were held with sincerity and confidence, next to the intimidating presence of Alai Naseer. Orderlies who become entangled in Mr Johnson’s tales (Carl Dolamore, James Docherty, Suzanne Knight) seek to make sense of the changing events around them but ultimately become too involved in this unravelling story of myth and reality, and all three saw steady and emotional performances.

The Etcetera Theatre is a tiny venue, keeping the audience as close to the action as possible without being on the stage itself, requiring real concentration and attention to detail from the actors. Yet despite some technical issues regarding volume, this production was an incredibly encouraging beginning for this new theatre company, and demonstrates the creativity of writing and talent of acting they have to offer. The eerie plotline, striking cast, and simple yet effective set made The Cat With Hands a true ghost story that left you guessing until the very end.

The Cat With Hands by New Project Theatre was a part of the Camden Fringe, which runs until the 26th August 2012. For more information visit www.camdenfringe.com.

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