The Cat Laughs by Fern Kealy
Last May Kilkenny native Fern Kealy spent two days immersed at The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival. She shares her thoughts on two very different experiences on offer in The Marble City.
Day 1- Crowman
On the 30th of May 2019, I had the pleasure of seeing Crowman in the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny. On its promotional material, this one-man show, written and directed by Katie Holly was described as “hilarious dark comedy”.
Jon Kenny played the role of Dan, a man living alone in rural Ireland who goes to funerals as social events. However, when he turns on the radio one day, he is shocked to hear that Sheila, a woman he loved has passed away. We watch Jon Kenny slip in and out of several characters as he reflects on his memories of Sheila. It is the interruption of the much-hated crows which brings him back to reality, due to a traumatic childhood experience involving them.
Throughout the play, Dan speaks to his unseen dog Pup. This device is cleverly used to change the subject or make small talk.
The fact that there is only one actor in this play emphasises how lonely Dan is, and this is further shown as Pup is always off stage. It was quite moving and poignant to see his loneliness portrayed in this way.
Initially, I felt detached from this play. It was as though I didn’t have much in common with Dan, and whilst of course, Dan is different to myself I definitely related to his emotions as expressed and his way of dealing with things. In a recent interview, Jon Kenny said that “there was a little bit of Dan in all of us” and I think this is why many people would identify with and enjoy some aspect of this play, as it deals with many topics including loneliness.
This was a very intimate play and I felt that as I attended it in a relatively large theatre it maybe wasn’t as moving as it could have been if it were performed in a smaller space. That said, I still found the piece a very touching experience.
The play was resolved beautifully with a definite ending that I thought suited very well and tied up the drama. I left the theatre with a lot to think about and discuss, but at the same time didn’t feel burdened or overwhelmed.
I would recommend this play, as it is quite honest in portraying loneliness and a feeling of lost opportunity.
Crowman is currently touring Ireland through 2020.
Day 2- The Bear Pack Improv
The following day, I had the pleasure of seeing The Bear Pack perform in The Village
Inn. The Bear Pack are an improv duo from Sydney, comprising of Steen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie. The improvised show was inspired by suggestions from the audience and accompanied by Ange Lavoipierre on the cello. The duo also facilitated a workshop earlier that day which I attended.
During this workshop we participated in different exercises including an improvised “radio show” and creating an advertisement in two minutes, then a minute and a half, gradually reducing the time until we were just given the product and some other information by another group and went straight into the ad, without preparation.
I generally haven’t been very comfortable with improvisation mainly due to overthinking or shutting down any ideas as soon as they come to mind, but I found that the workshop helped me to get out of my comfort zone and improve my ability to think on my feet. During the improvisation of the advertisements, Raskopoulos and Ritchie encouraged us to say “yes, excellent!” no matter what was suggested, increasing the confidence of the participants and encouraging them to keep contributing ideas.
I later found that many of the techniques the duo taught us were used throughout the performance and it was interesting to see them put into practice so well.
Back on stage, later that night, the show was an hour of enjoyable, hilarious, light-hearted comedy. The duo’s wit and improvisational skills were outstanding. I was amazed by their ability to keep the plot going so smoothly and also the physical animation of the acting. The improvised cello mirrored the story very well and added to the atmosphere of the performance through the use of sustained notes and eerie scales. I found that as an audience member it was exciting that all of their shows were completely different. This performance ended up being about the Olympics, a story about a father who was a famous runner, wanting his son to follow in his footsteps, but his son wanted to walk!
Due to the nature of improvisation, some loose strings weren’t tied up, so at the end, the actors allowed 10 minutes for the audience to ask any questions they had. They would then act out a solution or ending to the part in question.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show, which was described as “the highlight of The Cat Laughs”, and also the workshop, which was very insightful, enjoyable and helpful for anyone who would like to work on getting more comfortable with improvisation. I would highly recommend The Bear Pack for an evening of light, comedic theatre and a good laugh.
Fern’s participation in the workshop and ticket for the show was free of charge.
Fern Kealy is a member of Kilkenny Youth Theatre and a Young Critic for 2019