Critically acclaimed Play With Fire Productions returned to Hope Mill Theatre this week with their new production, Herding Cats.
The play introduces us to Justine (Kayleigh Hawkins) and Michael (Daniel Bradford), two flatmates for whom life isn’t exactly the barrel of laughs they had wished for. Justine is eternally stressed about work and gets little chance to do much else. Due to her long hours and daily pressures she lives in an almost constant state of rage, where drink becomes her crutch but is often more foe than friend.
Michael is her confidant, due to his agoraphobia he struggles to leave their flat, instead earning his living by offering phone sex to men such as Saddo (John Gully), an older man who gets his kicks from twisted fantasies about his own daughter. Michael, always ready to listen to Justine’s latest rant is the one person she feels she can rely on.
As Justine risks showing her vulnerability to her ex-hippy boss, whom she has unexpectedly grown attached to and Michael realises he perhaps needs Saddo’s calls more than Saddo needs him, we start to realise just how fragile and desperately lonely they truly are.
Writer Lucinda Coxon does not shy away from the awkward and uncomfortable, this piece is bold and in your face. The director has made great use of Hope Mill Theatre’s unique space, every inch of the floor is covered by a pacing and anxious Justine as she dissects her day in order to process the conversations and actions of her boss whom she struggles to understand.
The cast deliver each scene with commitment and confidence, there are moments that challenge – do you look on or turn away? The production make you think beyond what you see acted out on stage as you recognise thoughts and feelings played out by Michael and Justine, as those seemingly with the upper hand may actually be the needy and the lonely of this world. Powerful, bold and dynamic theatre.
On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 3rd June, tickets £12 can be found here
Hope Mill Theatre, 113 Pollard St, Manchester M4 7JA
0161 275 9141