Dates: 26 March - 10 April 2004 at 8pm
Venue: Presentation House Theatre, N. Vancouver.

Reviewer: John Jane


(l-r) Naomi Wright, Steven Holmes and Bill Devine

In the early thirteenth century Temujen was crowned Genghis Khan. His apocalyptic tenure on the leadership of the Mongol nation has been regarded by historians as absolute totalitarianism. His subjects believed that he was the greatest man of all time and a man sent from heaven.

The legend of Genghis and “Pere Ubu”, Alfred Jarry's grotesque farce, that satirizes the French middle class are the sources of inspiration behind Gregory Motton’s bizarre theatrical work, Cat and Mouse (Sheep) -- an absurd title for an even more absurd play.

In Sea Theatre’s programme notes, the production is described as a “Monty Python meets George Orwell send-up”. Okay, so there were elements of Pythonesque humour to be found, but what it lacked was style. And style is what Terry Jones and Graham Chapman (Monty Python’s writers) knew something about.

Motton’s absurdist theatre-piece deals with what happens in modern Britain when Capitalism goes absolutely mad. The story begins with Gengis opening his little grocery shop somewhere in London. In a socialist rant he declares a produce price war with his competitor (and landlord) next door. Gengis suddenly becomes ‘The Mighty Khan’ (coincidence?) and winds up running the country with his uncle and aunt.





Steven Holmes, Bill Devine, Naomi Wright and David Thomson all work very hard to inject honest fun into this way-over-the-top production. That was really part of the problem. Close proximity of audience to the players made the performances seem overwhelming.

The elements of class and of sex as power are undeniably present, with tragic platitudes of daily life played out over and over again without real progress. The facetious descended to ludicrous when Gengis sodomizes his uncle and discovers that his uncle is actually his aunt.

When the cast broke out into song with “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”, the attempt at couth offense appeared to fall flat.

It was ultimately left to Dorothy Dittrich to provide more conventional entertainment with her wonderful coffee-house style of piano-playing on an old Newcombe upright piano that could have been around when Presentation House was built as a school around 1900.

It may be a fair indication that satire has hit the mark when half the audience, after having had their sensibilities assaulted, are trying to decide on whether to leave immediately, or wait until the intermission; while the other half are falling off their seats with laughter.

Cat and Mouse (Sheep) came close to hitting the mark, but it was hardly enough to inspire me to hurl rocks at Starbucks windows.

© 2004, John Jane