Erica Murray’s The Cat’s Mother scours like only caustic Irish comedy can. Written as part of the Soho Theatre’s Young Writers Lab and longlisted for the Verity Bargate Award, it follows two sisters – Sinead and Ciara from County Clare – as they struggle to decide what to do about their mother’s debilitating, undignified dementia.
There aren’t many options on the table. Stay as they are, with Sinead doing all the caring back in Ireland and Ciara selfishly hiding in her £950-a-month London flat. Spend money they don’t have on a cripplingly expensive care home. Or kill her. Pillow over her head, pills down her throat.
In a series of short scenes injected with sharp stabs of dark humour, Murray gleefully puts together an affectionate portrait of sisterly love, a tangentially political picture of life as a carer, and a thorny moral quandary. Is it better to let a loved one die with dignity or live in confusion and chaos?
It’s a seriously promising London debut for Murray, forcibly reminiscent of the black absurdity of Martin McDonagh or David Ireland , and Jackie Fisher’s production is no less impressive: understated, energetic, and boasting three classy comedic performances.
Doireann White is panicky and prissy as the gluten-intolerant Ciara, Philippa Carson is brash and brazen as her younger sister Sinead, and Kate Kennedy is scene-stealingly amusing in a series of well-observed cameos. It’s not perfect – the structure’s skewed and the ending abrupt – but its fierce and its funny. My show of the festival so far.