By George Fenn
I am not a cat person. Not that I am dog person either, but as much as I am not a dog a person I would say I am doubly not a cat person. Despite my prejudices against overrated home decor, I still found Linda Calgaro and Daniel Allan’s performance of The Secret Life of Cats instantly endearing, even if not as much as the rest of the sold out house of pussy lovin’ Nelsonian.
People seriously love cats.
The premise is simple, “like Garfield” Allan says. In this comparison Allan play’s the long suffering Jon analogue, while Calgaro adopts the flawed but lovable character of an audience member’s favourite felines. However, instead of taking the form of quick comic gags or a dragging feature length movie we are treated with thorough character development which builds on the straight man / silly cat duo set into more complex relationships.
The performers take their time beginning the scene, starting it in a location suggested by an audience member. I found this choice interesting as it opens up unlikely destinations for cats and owners to find themselves. This being said, the slow long form platforming was potentially better suited to a domestic setting which is probably why the “Laboratory” provocation was justified to the basement of a house.
Calgaro’s cattish personifications are dynamic despite the audience seemingly satisfied with watching the cat be petted by Allan. While capitalising on the innate awww-factor of cats, the duo go beyond portraying a range of personalities from cheeky, skittish to malicious, the latter of which I found particularly cathartic. This kept the concept fresh enough that after two twenty-minute long scenes the audience was begging for another, which was delivered just as fresh.
The Secret Life of Cats is a premise so strong it’s’ almost exploitative. It plays on the same twisted nurturing drive that cats use to worm their way into the hearts of humans. That being said, I commend the players for providing a depth of entertainment more nuanced than the cat GIFs on your Facebook feed.