Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh
With so many different Fringe spaces incorporating the words ‘Assembly’ and ‘George’ it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right one. Catherine and Anita is performed in – or rather outside – the imposing Assembly Rooms on George Street in the New Town – a good twenty-minute walk away from the Assembly venues on George Square. We live in Edinburgh so we’re not caught out by this, but the people sweating and panting in the queue behind us have had to run for it, and are only just in time for the show. So – be aware! Make sure you know exactly where you’re headed before you set off.
Anyway: to the show. Catherine and Anita is not the two-hander I’d assumed from the title, but a monologue, performed with absolute commitment by Sarah Roy as the eponymous Catherine. She is Catherine through-the-ages: an adult, a child, a married woman, a widow. It’s a strong performance, drawing out all the nuances of a difficult character, played with a stark intensity. The standout is the restaurant scene, where Catherine’s anxiety is funny and disturbing in equal measure.
This is a tricky piece to review without giving spoiler alerts; suffice to say, the opening scenes have an awkwardness to them that only makes sense once certain facts are revealed. I can see what playwright Derek Ahonen’s intention is here, but I don’t think it quite works. The childhood scene, for example, renders me unconvinced and, even though it’s later explained, it’s curiously alienating as it stands. The play hits its stride in the second half, once we know more, and have a greater understanding of Catherine and her behaviour – and the hysteria is dialled down.
All in all, this is an interesting – if flawed – piece, with a powerful performance at its centre.