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Herding Cats (Bath)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Do see this play.  Sadly, the opening scene is its weakest, but all too soon, you’re drawn into the pre-Christmas world of housemates Justine and Michael, who’ve landed in their thirties and mask their hollow, hungry loneliness with the demands of their jobs. 

Olivia Hallinan’s Justine is initially rather mind-numbingly frantic in her frustration at new colleague, the soave, older - and from a distance, rather pathetic - Nigel. Soon enough, he seduces her mind, and she declares that this year, she will fall in love. But from the outset, her flatmate Michael, winningly played by Philip McGinley, is the more interestingly drawn of the pair. His ‘phone sex job pulls him into the dark, dark ambit of another older man, ‘Saddo’, who is subtly, sensitively and effortlessly depicted by David Michaels. While Justine and Michael may feel world-weary and sophisticatedly well past their twenties, neither is equipped for the psychological wastelands occupied by their middle-aged ‘love’-objects, both of which have clear rules of engagement.

Lucinda Coxon’s script is on the whole craftsman like, and Anthony Banks’s direction especially invigorating during the scene-bridges: loud, dialogue-free music-and-light interludes sketch out life between episodes, the most fun of which is a Yuletide medley where the characters’ songs both flow and fight, reflecting their inner states of mind.

Garance Marneur’s lusciously simple set is woefully underused, but this is more than made up for by James Mckenzie’s light and Alex Baranowksi’s great soundtrack - which could only be improved on with the addition of Peggy Lee’s existentialist ditty, “Is That All There Is?”

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