Soho Theatre Upstairs strikes again, bringing all that’s new in experimental emerging theatre companies and falling straight into the hands of Encounter. This company make it their mission to open the doors of exposure on normal people, trudging through their normal lives with all the extraordinary madness of the ‘private life’ thrown in for good measure. Encounter then takes all of that normal abnormality and thrusts into a wonderful world of excitement, collaboration and a myriad of performance. They pull in elements of contemporary dance, comedy surrealism, multi-role play and serious acting to tell us a story that is as enticing as it is amusing.
Shockingly, in I Heart Catherine Pistachio we’re told the cleverly weird tale of Catherine Pistachio. It’s a two-hander that sees both Nick Blakeley and Carl Harrison play our, not altogether untroubled, protagonist. Each represents a side of her personality: Blakeley taking her compassionate innocence and Harrison the monstrous devil on her shoulder. She is born, unloved, and brought up under lock and key as her swinger parents swing their hearts out. Her only friends are her pets who are also ultimately maltreated by her parents. Darker twists emerge at the hands of her mum and dad. Though Lionel (Blakeley) and Linda (Harrison) are oddballs to say the least, they carry the weight of the narrative’s surreal comedy on their shoulders, as they bite and pinch their way through their relationship with incredibly well-written wit (Lee Mattinson). There is a whole barrage of characters crafted with obscurity. The actors transition from character to character, taking everything from a wheelchair-bound ex-ballerina to Saved by the Bell’s very own Mario Lopez in their stride with all the smoothness of movement.
Movement makes up a hefty chunk of the production under the direction of Simone Coxall, with a leg-up from Harrison’s contemporary dance background. It is fluid and energetic, pivoting the spinning surrealism manically, before reining it in to balletic control. A lot of their characters are shaped through their physicality alone, embodying a dog, a pony and Eric and Ernie, to name a few.
As you may have gathered, I Hear Catherine Pistachio is weird. Two grown men both dressed as a little girl, using every mode they possibly can to tell her story. They do it though with vigour, skill and comedy layered on top of a brilliant 90s soundtrack. It all flows unpretentiously and makes for a well spent sixty minutes.
I Heart Catherine Pistacho is playing at Soho Theatre until 4 April. For tickets and more information, see the Soho Theatre website. Photo by Chris Nash.