The smell of toasties on George Square, the brightly coloured flyers foisted on you each minute and the costumed actors loudly rushing every which way all do their part to make this harrowing tale of modern-day homelessness so resistible. Based on the seminal film, Cathy Come Home, by Ken Loach, Ali Taylor’s modern new take Cathy is heartrendingly written, brilliantly performed and devastatingly well-informed.
It’s important to remember during Fringe that the arts are not only for entertaining and distracting, but for coping and promoting change. The stark yet often abstract fact of Britain’s housing crisis is made flesh and bone in this 90-minute play and considered for discussion afterwards.
Middle-aged Cathy and her 15-year-old daughter are three months behind on the rent for the first time after living on the same estate for two generations when they are evicted from their London borough.
The moments we often rarely consider – from asking estranged family for help to guarding possessions on the curb – are expertly enacted and humbling to watch. Between scenes, images of housing are projected onto a pile of white blocks on the side of the stage while the audio of people interviewed about their housing situation is piped through the theatre.
Amy Loughton handles a full repertoire of female characters, but none are as impressive as Anya, Cathy’s encouraging coworker who loses her job when she stands up to her boss’s racist abuse. Unfortunately, people are likely more receptive to the humanization of those who experience the harsh reality of housing when they are white and British. This reality for people of colour and refugees is often harsher, and the inclusion of Anya’s character is essential in betraying the violent mindsets that make homelessness so demeaning.
More of those perspectives could only benefit the play further, but the perspectives that are included are an informative and imperative addition to anyone’s 2017 Fringe.
Words: Emily Hall
Cathy, Pleasance Dome, Aug 6-26 (not 9, 14, 21), 3.30pm