Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 13 – May 7, 2017
Playwrights: Brendan Cowell (The Dog), Lally Katz (The Cat)
Directors: Ralph Myers, Anthea Williams
Cast: Sheridan Harbridge, Benedict Hardie, Xavier Samuel
Image by Brett Boardman
We like to subscribe to the notion that there are cat people, and in a separate category there are dog people. This either/or dynamic could easily be applied to this double bill. Brendan Cowell’s The Dog and Lally Katz’s The Cat are both contemporary Australian comedies, but there is little in their respective senses of humour that unites them. Not to say that one is funnier than the other, for that judgement can only be a subjective one, but the probability of individuals enjoying one half of the presentation, and not the other (are you a cat person or a dog person?) is highly likely.
While Cowell’s work is a naturalistic exploration of today’s personalities and relationships, Katz’s approach is highly stylised, relying on surreal elements for its laughs. Both are filled with frothy, inconsequential observations that tell us nothing surprising, but there is certainly a lot of entertainment to be found in their dual presentation. Some of its jokes are genuinely funny, and when they are less than effective, the flamboyant cast invariably finds ways to make things work.
Benedict Hardie is wonderful, and perfect, in all three of his roles, determined that every word of dialogue is served with flair and purpose. Sheridan Harbridge and Xavier Samuel too, are delightful in the more outrageous comedy of The Cat, both in their element, and unimaginably creative with their artistic choices. On this stage, it is the acting that makes all the difference. Often, we could hardly care about what is being said, when enthralled in the masterful comedic performances so diligently bestowed upon us.
Laughing together in an auditorium beings us closer. We discover where we are similar, and remember that we are a community, sharing in life as compatriots and neighbours. So much of current discourse is about separation and hostilities. Even though the enemy is always abstract, we fall every day, for the allure of convenient condemnation. Theatre is essentially about camaraderie. We have to forsake our phones and isolation, just for a couple of hours, to sit, watch and listen, as one body, to react as one body to what is usually a reflection of ourselves. The Dog / The Cat brings us parts of being human that are silly, and in all that silliness, we are moved to recognise that the vulnerabilities of people are the same, and realise we can so easily just be there, and be good with one another.