FRINGE REVIEW – The Track of The Cat, Bearplate @ C

*****

7 – 30 Aug 2010 (2130) @ C Venues

By Emily P

The Track of the Cat is not the path of paw prints left behind the North American Mountain Lion as it raids the cattle and livelihood of the early 20th century western settlers in this adaptation of a gothic western novel. It is the pursuit of the personal and communal fears which maraud the family in their isolated and introverted life in the lonely valley.
 
Of the Bridge family, who are faced with the threat without and fear within during a winter storm isolating their homestead, it is the obnoxious Kurt who is our antagonist – his blood lust and desire for uninhibited and uncontested pursuit of his accumulation of power in the valley making him the instigator of the action. His brothers: Arthur: dreamy and mystic and Harold: optimistic and practical, must suffer the favouritism and reverence with which Kurt is held in their home.
 
The yellow cat killing the livestock becomes entangled with the family legend – introduced to their already strained existence by the native retainer Joe-Sam – of The Black Cat. It represents to Kurt a trophy to be caught, killed and skinned but to Arthur it is a more spiritual omen to be warded off with talismen and held in reverence.
 
Either way what this tale really is concerned with is the inter-familial struggle for power and influence. The production’s all female cast throws the themes of masculinity and patriarchy into central focus and we see that the fear which besets each character differently is an amalgam of many. it also highlights Harold’s fiancé – the unlucky Gwen’s influence as an outsider, threatening mainly in her sex and sexuality.
 
The use of an all female cast detaches us from realism and any period setting. We are better able to see that the politics personality in the acceptance and revolt against biological destiny in the competition for ‘man’ of the ranch – will Kurt’s arrogant blood lust win him the prize over his brothers’ dreamy pensiveness or unobtrusive practicality? When we’re looking at women actors of equally feminine appearance the struggle for male supremacy, the fascination for men with claiming land, women, wealth and power are laid bare for us to examine in a clearer light.
 
The choice of costumes may be a little misguided though, as the actors are capable of being both visibly women and to speak their male parts without the need for high-street cocktail wear. Some gestures are too weak and uncrafted in what is otherwise pared down direction – a little more precision or restraint would help the storytelling to shine.
A most excellent factor is the live music from Benni Hemm Hemm which brings true poiniancy and maintains tension throughout.
 
Although the actors were, for the most part, equal to the story and the telling of it the production did not transcend the original story. The enduring power of familial tensions and falling idols to interest us and the still unquenched fascination for examining the male pursuit of territory and flesh ensured that I was still firmly on the Track of the Cat by the time the houselights came up.

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