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Review: You are the Kitten at The Mill, Adelaide 

Review by Lisa Lanzi

Please note:  as I couldn’t attend the single in-theatre presentation of You Are The Kitten at The Mill, I was privileged to be invited to a preview showing in a rehearsal room.

The first iteration of this play by Sydney-based writer Nicole Plüss premiered at the 2017 Sydney Fringe Festival as Ripe and is now heading for the 2024 Edinburgh Fringe as You Are The Kitten, both versions led by the very capable direction of Ellen Wiltshire.  Also exciting is the fact that this project is female-led, a paradigm very close to my heart.

A cast of two sees Chrissy Miller as Claire and Britt Ferry as Elisabeth.  Two very different women (and one stick thin greyhound) roaming the streets on New Year’s Eve meet and forge a bond.  They could be strangers, or might they know each other from some past moment? - but they are linked in their respective solo sojourns and the need to escape certain male influences where violence, abuse, gas lighting, animal cruelty, and confusion abound alongside some humorous, ironic moments.

The rich narrative unfolds gradually, the women’s adventures taking them into a number of surprising scenarios: a vintage clothing store, a yacht, a down and out residence filled with dogs and cats… and cockroaches, and the infamous South Head ocean cliff known as The Gap in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.  Time is fluid and intriguingly abstract as the one hour play progresses, Claire and Elisabeth traversing both considerable physical and emotional distances in the lead up to midnight and harbourside fireworks.

One exciting facet of this production is the purity of the sparse text.  No word is superfluous, every phrase and thought pared back to utter clarity, a case of ‘less is more’ conveying so much.  Both performers are riveting in their execution of the layered dialogue as they portray each character and transform physically as required.  Claire is a little more suburban that the streetwise Elisabeth but quickly educates herself as she observes different interactions and the latter’s bold propensity to stand up for her own, and all females’, rights.  Miller and Ferry possess perfectly clear diction and laser focus throughout the demanding performance, plus their character building is flawless.  Additionally, their transformative physical dexterity allows for other characters to make an appearance so that we bounce seamlessly between third person narrative and first person performativity.

Ferry transforms into ‘Cat Lady’ with subtle but clear shifts in stature and voice.  Miller embodies the fearsome ‘Mad Dog’ with similar prowess.  As they navigate meeting and dealing with these and other odious characters, Claire and Elisabeth swap between states of vulnerability and power, fear and triumph, while wrestling with Elisabeth’s theories to explain the way her world view works.  Ellen Wiltshire’s direction is clear and plays with status shifts and changes in reality as the two characters (and ‘others’) weave through the space, advancing, retreating, circling, and changing levels.  Use of props is limited but core, one being the ingenious way the greyhound ‘Gloria’ is depicted using a short length of hawser-like rope.  At no time will your attention wane, such is the pace, dexterity, and creativeness of the whole.  In addition, the soundscape accompanies the action perfectly without ever intruding or jarring.

This impressive work is funny, well-observed, beautifully written, and horrific in various measures.  There are moments depicting or speaking of vile cruelty and sexual predation but also an atmosphere of female empowerment is constructed alongside a few wry twists in the way relationships and stories intertwine.  You Are The Kitten is the total package combining talent, creative vision, clarity of execution, and a connected, shared collaborative work ethic that gives this gem of an independent work a winning edge.  It is a must see if you are in Edinburgh for the Fringe this year, and I hope it makes a return visit to Adelaide in future.

Image Supplied


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