I don't really know what to make of Lucinda Coxon's Herding Cats
. Garance Marneur has designed a striking set of a giant white sofa and rug on a black background, where Justine (Olivia Hallinan) returns from work every night to tell flatmate Michael (Philip McGinley) endless stories of how useless her new boss is. So fixated with him is she that pretty soon it's clear it's not exactly hate she really feels for him. Michael can't leave the house, although even he can't seem to get his story straight on whether this is down to agoraphobia or ME. He works from home on a sex chat line, putting on the voice of a young girl.
Where the play succeeds spectacularly is in the scenes between Michael and, on the other end of a phone line, a regular client he's privately nicknamed Saddo (David Michaels.) They are unflinchingly uncomfortable, getting progressively creepier and sold by the performances, especially from McGinley who's got such a difficult job to do. But elsewhere I found it a lot more problematic, for example Justine's office woes may give respite from the Michael/Saddo storyline but feel dull in comparison; and the attempts at humour fall flat on pretty much every level. I'll admit that my reaction was probably influenced by programme notes by Coxon and director Anthony Banks that could go in their entirety into Private Eye
's Pseuds Corner (I'm sure at some point they claim to have invented the idea of playing music during scene changes.) Like the programme notes, I found the play itself to have philosophical aspirations that remained rather vague.Herding Cats
by Lucinda Coxon is booking until the 7th of January at Hampstead Theatre's Michael Frayn Space.