PS Your Cat is Dead

Anne-Marie Marquess enjoys some feline fun, night-time robbery and cheeky comedy

If you’re in need of some fresh, innovative, hilarious, theatrical comedy, PS Your Cat is Dead is guaranteed to make you giggle. 

Originally a novel written by James Kirkwood Jr, C21 Theatre have adapted the play for a Northern Irish audience, taking it from its Broadway roots to modern day, 21st-century Belfast, with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams. And high hopes, of course.

Attracted to the play by the striking promo image of a wide-eyed, wild haired guy, with a slightly crazed expression, clutching his cat, I was drawn by the quirkiness. And by the fact that the play was about a thirtysomething person having a run of bad luck. My own cat isn’t long dead, I'm in my 30s, and as a plaster cast on my arm proves, lucky's not my middle name.

It was a full house at Belfast's Old Museum Arts Centre, and quite a young audience on the whole. Perhaps more twentysomething, than thirtysomething. As we take our seats, 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' plays in the background. 

PS Your Cat is Dead takes place on New Year's Eve, and there’s a Christmas tree on set. Despite being the summer, this is Northern Ireland and the weather outside is frightful. A cosy atmosphere is created, the lights dim and the audience wait in anticipation as silence fills the air. 

PS You Cat is Dead: Steven Kelly and Tony DevlinSuddenly a smash jolts us from our comfort. Silence again, then a tracksuit-clad figure appears, shining a torch. Just as the burglar (Tony Devlin) gets the DVD and CD player together, the door opens, the lights are switched on, and he dives for cover into the wardrobe. (A closet he will come out of later.)

Kate (Antoinette Morelli) enters the flat and answers the phone to learn from the vet that her boyfriend Jimmy’s cat is dead. He’s not going to be happy, not after all the bad luck he’s been having, she sighs. She writes a break-up letter, ending with the words 'PS - your cat is dead'. 

Just as the burglar tries to do a runner, Jimmy (Steven Kelly) enters and he is forced to dive under the bed. The burglar, Tucker is forced to listen to the couple arguing, culminating in Kate leaving to go ice skating with her new man, Trevor (Damian McDonald).

Jimmy is pissed off and in one hell of a mood. It’s New Years Eve, his beloved cat has died, his girlfriend has left him, he’s been burgled several times and has just officially become 'an out of work actor'. 

'I thought you had a contract,' Kate had asked. 'Yeah,' he'd replied, 'but it had a "fuck you" clause.' To top it all off, he had written a book but that too has been stolen. Bang go the dreams of becoming a novelist.

As he sits down, exasperated, his eyes are drawn to a gun on the coffee table. Baffled, he picks it up, examining it. During yet another argument on the phone, he forcefully fires it. 

At this point the burglar is determined to scarper. He’s getting scared. Jimmy chases him in a rage, and after much fighting and struggling, eventually ties him up. 'Boy,' he says, 'did you ever drop down the wrong chimney tonight...'

As Jimmy proceeds to talk to Tucker, a strange and bizarre dialogue ensues, and you begin to wonder who is scarier - the foul-mouthed, tracksuited, burglar who entered the place with a gun or the educated, angry occupant who has him tied up in a compromising position and has not yet decided what to do with him.

PS You Cat is Dead: Steven Kelly and Tony DevlinJimmy coolly flicks his remote control, the sound of 'Ave Maria' fills the room and he pours himself a glass of champagne. He studies his victim and you begin to think there's a touch of American Psycho here. And as he sits down to his salad, you hope it doesn’t turn into a taste of Hannibal. 'You’re not some kind of psycho queer, are you?' Tucker asks, squirming in his ropes.

After Tucker begs to be untied to go to the loo, Jimmy takes a pair of scissors from the drawer. The burglar fears the worst and is somewhat relieved to lose only his trousers, as opposed to a certain part of his anatomy. Tucker's a man on the wrong side of the law, but Jimmy is a man on the edge, and there's no knowing which way he will swing.

Stephen Kelly, the co-founder of C21 is fantastic in the main role. He plays the psycho superbly, rage simmering beneath his handsome and charismatic surface, bubbling over into regular manic outbursts. His egocentric character could blow at any time, leading the burglar to produce a bong from his bag and offer Jimmy a smoke. And Tony's expressions throughout this play are priceless.

As the burglar lies tied to the sink with with bare, tattooed cheeks exposed, sipping coke, a crazed Jimmy questions him for a new book. Having both recently lost lovers, the two characters connect. Hard man Tucker turns out to have the hots for Jimmy. It's an unlikely New Years Eve scenario, with the cat burglar tied up like a naughty pet, along with a saucer of champagne.

When the square, suited, Trevor arrives with Kate, the two guys reinforce their bond, happily shocking the couple. There’s such good contrast between the characters in this production, with great comedic and touching moments. Even a foul-mouthed burglar and an egotistical drifter can have good hearts. 

Whether your cat has died, you’ve lost your job, you’re a petty thief or a thirtysomething drifter, this clever play will appeal to many. There’s a lot of bad language though, so be prepared. And with a 'full moon' on display, it may be a little bit too cheeky for some.

PS Your Cat is Dead plays at St Mary's University College, August 6-9. Click here for full details.