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Catherine and Anita review at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – ‘slick, sick and unsettling’

Sarah Roy in Catherine and Anita Sarah Roy in Catherine and Anita
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Successfully walking a tightrope between exploitative and insensitive, Catherine and Anita is a neat psychological thriller with a streak of twisted, pitch-black humour. The story introduces us to Catherine, experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis, whose repressed memories, sexuality and murderous urges are personified in her imaginary friend Anita.

Jumping back and forth in time, her extremely unreliable narrative slowly reveals the extent of the abuse she has endured, and the lengths she goes to to escape it.

Alone onstage throughout, Sarah Roy gives a riveting performance, channelling jittery hyperactivity and squirming awkwardness, confidently tackling the script’s verbal acrobatics, dense exposition and convoluted logic.

Each phase of her life is represented by subtly different body language and a new hairstyle, with every transition being accompanied by a compressed blurt of distorted sound, laughter and music arranged by Dave Walker. Holly Ellis’ lighting, meanwhile, washes the stage in sickly lilac or strobes directly into the audience’s eyes.

Writer and director Derek Ahonen builds some serious tension into his production, and while his story lacks a meaningful conclusion, the early scenes at least feel raw and genuinely dangerous. Though the play never quite settles on a tone, it remains slick, sick and unsettling.

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Dark, fragmentary character study held together by Sarah Roy’s gripping performance