THEATRE REVIEW: Dead Cats at Sheffield Playhouse

"Words are weapons in Westerside’s insightful play."

IN THE week when Donald Trump again stands reality on its head, fake news is centre stage in this clever piece of political theatre.

Just when you think you couldn’t make it up, he does. Or “they” as the people with power and privilege are referred to here.

Written and directed by Andrew Westerside, performers Rachel Baynton and Gillian Lees are locked in a Pinter-esque battle between fact and fiction.

In a clean room, a small meeting room, which could be an interview or committee room, the two role play as they prepare for a some sort of inquiry or investigation. But who’s really in charge?

They repetitively move a desk and chairs, and a plant, around the stage after each encounter, creating another, similar room before going head to head again, like a series of Bird and Fortune sketches, as more and more about what’s going on in the world is revealed.

Orwellian phrases used by government and politicians are explored.

“Dead cat” derives from a phrase used to describe how politicians make a shocking announcement to  distract from their own failings. There is a very funny scene about a dead cat.

Words are weapons in Westerside’s insightful play.

The actors swap lines to show how language is distorted.

So homophobia becomes traditional family values, the homeless are temporary unhoused, bankrupt is negative cash flow, fraud is simply a white collar misunderstanding. And of course lies are merely alternative facts.

Baynton and Lees make for a sharp and funny double act.

The scene where the names of ministers is redacted through the sound of a party blower is hilarious.

The show doesn't flinch from naming its target of Johnson and the Westminster elite.

Superbly acted, it'’s not so much about shocking revelations as confirming what we already know about the level of corruption at the top.

But also tellingly from the start — with references to the American Civil War — it raises questions about what is actually the truth.

Dead Cats is the third contemporary theatre work in Proto-type’s critically-acclaimed Truth to Power Project.

As the phone hacking trial continues, it’s worthy of a wide audience and discussion.

Dead Cats is at Sheffield Playhouse until tonight (Thursday).



Related topics: