Meeting Myself Coming Back
Review by Philip Fisher
It is Catherine's 21st birthday and she takes the opportunity to look back over her life. She is both physically and mentally disabled, her hips are constantly stiff and painful and the only words that she is ever heard to utter are "Thank you".
While she cannot outwardly verbalise her thoughts, we are treated to an interior monologue which both paints a picture of life with disability and also tells Catherine's story together with that of the rest of her family.
The play is directed by John Wright, a founder of Told By An Idiot and his imagination, together with a tremendous performance by Joanna Holden as Catherine, makes for gripping viewing.
The set, designed by Tom Piper, may start completely bare with only a Safeway's bag but it soon becomes an integral part of the play. Nothing is stable, doors and staircases follow Catherine around and demonstrate her insecurity about herself and the world.
Catherine's worldview is that of a very intelligent, if unworldly, thinker. She does not see things in the way that others do. For example, she believes that her disability funding form is a quiz with a cash prize. In some ways, this is not too far from reality. She does though, demonstrate a far greater degree of human understanding than those TV superstars, Richard and Judy, whom she satirises wonderfully.
As Catherine wanders around her new house bought with her inheritance after the death of her parents, which quickly followed that of her sister, she is haunted by ghostly presences. It transpires that these are the other members of her family.
For Catherine's first dozen years, family life was idyllic. However, after her mother loses a child, her increasingly sinister father begins to act strangely. Much of the violence is hidden but implied and eventually, things get so far out of hand that the consequences are tragic. Despite all of this and the traumas that she has undergone, Catherine remains hopeful and eventually, achieves the catharsis that she has sought and needed while she has hidden herself away for the last eight years.
This play is almost a one hander and has many strengths. Much of Kerry Hood's language is poetic and she has a wicked, wry sense of humour that even her heroine's disability and experiences cannot keep down. Miss Hood also makes a very positive statement about the disabled. The fact that Catherine is dumb does not mean that she cannot hear or understand what is being said about her. By contrast, those that can hear and speak all too often will not listen.
John Wright's direction is absolutely superb. He builds up the drama with fleeting glimpses of what may be to come and depicts actions such as the death of Catherine's sister Margaret (named after Thatcher) with a few deft images like an artist drawing a sketch not an oil painting. In this he is very ably assisted by his lighting designer, Jason Taylor. This style is far more effective than the more recent vogue for graphic depictions of violence and terror on stage.
While the subject matter of family violence may be somewhat clichéd, this is a fresh, vibrant play with the ability to move and amuse and is strongly recommended.