Kings Cross Theatre, August 8
There’s this dead cat, you see. Well, not only dead, but skinned – and yet it still knows how to have a good time. We humans are certainly amateurs compared with cats when it comes to pleasure, and Jen Silverman’s play is about an emotionally rainy month in the marriage of Gregor and Sophie. They don’t communicate. Perhaps they never did. So Gregor kills and skins Wink, Sophie’s beloved puss. He buries the body in the garden and keeps the furry pelt in a box. It not only comforts him when he can’t sleep, it arouses him.
Ah. No wonder both Gregor (Graeme McRae) and Sophie (Eloise Snape) are consulting Dr Frans (Matthew Cheetham), a bowtied psychologist whose personality is more starched than his shirts. Gregor confides about the skinning (a brutal truth), and Sophie confides about being molested by a postman-slaying terrorist called Roland (an erotic lie).
Silverman’s play makes the term “black humour” seem pallid. This is riotous comedy for those who can stomach a moral fur-ball or two. Her comedic audacity has you wincing and snorting, and yet it’s also stuffed with sexual and other implications, most obviously being skinned equalling emotional nakedness.
In performance the piece’s success largely rides on the actor playing Wink, and director Anthony Skuse astutely cast Sam O’Sullivan, who exudes slinky feline sensuality and sudden unpredictability as he cosies up with Dr Frans, and adds plotting vengeance upon Gregor to his workload of eating, sleep and hunting.
Frans encapsulates the absurdity of much therapy, telling Sophie, “One must develop depressing routines in order to recover from tragedy,” and telling Wink, “All houses must be depressing, otherwise we would never go to work.” Then the smug, clock-watching doctor falls head over heels for the cat, whom he woos with the highly effective formula of red wine and Miles Davis (although they cut Wink’s delicious line upon lapping wine for the first time: “It tastes… red.”)
Skuse’s Wheels & Co production mostly dances nimbly down Silverman’s blurry line between madcap humour and something more biting. The bite could have been deeper when Wink breaks up with Frans had the scene been slower. But then what else in theatre prepares one for being given the bum’s rush by a skinned cat? If you need therapy, yourself, I’d go and have a giggle at this.