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Tomcat review at Southwark Playhouse – ‘intriguing new writing’

Eleanor Worthington-Cox and Brian Doherty in Tomcat at the Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Richard Davenport
Eleanor Worthington-Cox and Brian Doherty in Tomcat at the Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Richard Davenport

This year's winner of the Papatango prize for new writing – previous recipients of which include Dawn King's Foxfinder and Fiona Doyle's Coolatully – is set in a near future in which genetic screening has become a normal part of people's lives. Many disorders and conditions have been wiped out as a result but Jessie is an exception - an aberration. A 12-year-old with the genetic markers of a psychopath, she's been kept in isolation for all of her young life, her development observed and documented.

James Rushbrooke's Tomcat reads at times like an intriguing fusion of Gattaca and The Silence of the Lambs. As directed by Kate Hewitt, it's often a tense affair. There are scenes here which exert a real grip. Some of the twists feel a bit mechanical, though, and a subplot about the wife of Jessie's new doctor feels almost tacked on in comparison, a loose thread. The play's strength is in the complex, paternal and tender relationship between Jessie and her main carer, Tom. It's subtly and affectingly played by Brian Doherty and Eleanor Worthington-Cox (a former West End Matilda) genuinely impressive as Jessie, a child with flashes of something else within her, sympathetic but also unnerving. Both are superb, their scenes together by some way the best thing in this ambitious, question-raising, if sometimes uneven, play.

Verdict
Intriguing, question-raising if uneven new writing, winner of the Papatango Prize
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