There are many ways to present the housing crisis on stage. Letters to Windsor House took a humorous, observational view, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. Cathy, at the Royal Exchange Studio, lays bare the reality of the present situation, reminiscent of the style of the recent film I, Daniel Blake.  Interspersed with the drama are audiovisual recordings of real life stories relevant to the play.  Cardboard Citizens have been making life-changing theatre with and for homeless people for 25 years:

We create great theatre that makes a real and positive difference to our society and those living in its margins.  We are the UK’s leading practitioners of the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology.

Cathy, early forties, loses her flat because she cannot pay her rent. She moves around with her fifteen year old daughter, in and out of the system, trying to find ways to make ends meet. But the script is beautifully constructed to leave just enough gaps for us to question to what extent Cathy’s problems are her own making. Could she have done more? Does she try to buy her daughter’s love and run up a debt she can’t service? To what extent is she responsible for her choice of relationships?

This is a well presented and beautifully written play. The drama exists in the spaces between Cathy and her daughter, and Cathy and the system, both chasms that she never quite manages to bridge. There are some stunning moments, no more so than the night worker who tries to help Cathy as she surfs the night buses.

At the heart of this play are the crippling housing costs in London, and how this is destroying lives. The figures mentioned for rent and overnight accommodation are eye watering; I felt fortunate to live in Manchester where housing is still relatively affordable. Indeed it is the attempts to move Cathy to Gateshead and West Bromwich that most starkly highlight the increasing disparity between North and South. Why should people have to move to a completely different part of the country to find shelter? What price affordable housing?

Gritty and moving, but completely compelling.

Cathy is at the Royal Exchange from 12 – 14 Jan, then on tour.




Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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