THE BLACK CAT at the King’s Head Theatre
“This tiny production has no business being as good as it is and, the cherry on the cake, it is perfectly succinct”
The King’s Head brings to life Edgar Allan Poe’s short horror story in vivid brutal detail.
With no props, no stage design, the story is left entirely in the bloody hands of our anti-hero, played by Keaton Guimarães-Tolley, and multi-instrumentalist Catherine Warnock.
The story is a simple one, as with all great horror stories: a man, once tender of heart, grows restless and morose over the years, and in a drunken stupor murders his beloved cat. Henceforth he is plagued by guilt and eventually driven to madness.
Where some might have felt the need to add fuss and embellishment, this production understands that the story is made all the more affective by its plain telling. The narrator’s cravat, removed from his neck and tied into a small red noose, is plenty enough to make the audience gasp and shudder as an invisible cat hangs slack in its knot.
That being said, there is nothing plain about Catherine Warnock’s instrumentation. Moving easily and swiftly between clarinet, flute and violin to suit the scene, it’s really her presence that allows the King’s Head such a spartan design. Not only does she contribute the entire fraught soundtrack, but she also acts as wordless long-suffering wife, and silent jury to the narrator’s crimes. An ingenious addition to an otherwise one-man play, giving depth and true terror to this small tale.
Keaton Guimarães-Tolley shows fantastic range, beginning as a sweet, gangly goof, and morphing into a monstrous wreck. A perfect casting.
This tiny production has no business being as good as it is and, the cherry on the cake, it is perfectly succinct. There’s no need for an interval to break the building tension, because it’s all over in 45 minutes, and the audience is left reeling out of the auditorium, wanting only to go home and hold their cats lovingly and whisper, “I would never.”
Reviewed on 22nd March 2023
by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Alexander Atherton
Previously reviewed at this venue: