NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR CAT
Presented by: Tantrum Youth Arts
Venues and Seasons: Civic Playhouse, Newcastle, ended Saturday; Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney (atyp.com.au) – September 30 to October 3
BEFORE the auditorium doors open, one of the actors in No One Cares About Your Cat has the audience members dancing jovially together in the lobby.
The mood once the show begins is very different. The actors come on stage against a backdrop of ever-changing projections of social media images, most of them including cats.
The pictures are then replaced by words, initially "People are around me but not with me", with the five players voicing in turn a momentary response to this statement, and two others that follow: "I feel starved for company" and "I have nobody to talk to".
Next, in reply to the statement "What's on your mind?" they swiftly voice, in Facebook style, the things that are happening to them at various times of the day.
This, and the words and actions that follow, have the audience watching intently, frequently chuckling and laughing as they are reminded of their own behaviour and that of people around them, and at other times silently noting the way social media has affected lives and relationships.
The show's title, for example, came from a Facebook page that a Hunter woman started several years ago in the name of her cat, Spot Marion, and which has attracted comments from people all over the world. And the cat, amusingly represented by one of the performers wearing a head mask, makes appearances.
No One Cares About Your Cat is an engaging example of the way theatre can be used to look at serious issues in an entertaining way.
It was put together by a large team, including the five emerging actors (Zoe Anderson, James Chapman, Sam De Lyall, Jocelyne Lamarche, Jemima Webber), two other actors (Emily Daly, Britt Ferry) and the Paper Cut Collective contemporary performance team (Sarah Coffey, Tamara Gazzard, Lucy Shepherd), with the skilled technical support of young lighting, sound, music and visual technology designers. The writers drew on a "loneliness scale" put together by a University of California research group. The actors give an amusing cut and thrust to the characters' discussions and arguments, delivering among other things the five rules people can use to make themselves popular on Facebook.
They perform a lively dance routine against the background of a song being performed in a Facebook clip, and they make clever use of bright balls of wool to show how people can be separated and brought together.
Audience members also become involved in the action at times, with one scene calling on them to join the actors in using their mobile phones in response to questions about their responses to people around them. And while the use of phones is usually a no-no in theatres, this exception added to the delightful presentation of a well-developed work looking at an important contemporary social issue.