The Black Cat – Image credit Alexander Atherton.

Review of The Black Cat at the King’s Head Theatre

I’ll tell you a secret – I’d not read or seen any work by Edgar Allan Poe before last night’s production of The Black Cat at the King’s Head in Islington. To be honest, I was a little nervous going to see a Horror production by myself, especially one that started post 9pm, where I would need to travel home alone! Well, I’m a convert and I recommend you go see and this show as a great introduction to Poe! The secret’s out! I’m a fan!

The Black Cat – Image credit Alexander Atherton.
The Black Cat – Image credit Alexander Atherton.

A small intimate performance space such as The King’s Head is made for intimate, black box, productions such as this style of storytelling. This is a two-person production performed by Keaton Guimarães-Tolley and Catherine Warnock. It’s a deep dive into the horrific acts caused by humanity, a philosophical regaling of the ill fate of one nasty human and the atrocities he offers to his wife and pets, especially black cats!

What I really loved about this production was its simplicity in appearance, yet the talent behind the performance and the crew are up there with some of the best I’ve ever seen. With no set and little to no props (a redneck chief and a violin bow), both performers recreate a chilling, yet spellbinding performance. Guimarães-Tolley spends most of his stage time interacting with his mimes, his skill here is highly developed to the point where (Spoiler alert) when he mutilates and kills his cat (invisible to the audience) I still closed my eyes and winced – this to me shows how strong the illusion and performance levels in this production are.

Both performers (musician and actor) have strong on-stage chemistry, they almost dance on the stage, one moving and the other responding like a game of chess, or cat and mouse. It’s a very physically demanding production, so although it’s a monologue, delivered directly to the audience, our protagonist is constantly moving, his body jarring and morphing as his character falls deeper and deeper into an alcoholic lifestyle.

The piece is short, 40 minutes and is very wordy – sometimes the on-stage music, Warnock accompanies the spoken word via a clarinet, violin, flute and her vocal chords, slightly overpower the storytelling by Guimarães-Tolley, but this could of course be due to my hearing, not the actual performers. However, the idea of having the music on stage, a musician interacting with a performer is genius and really adds to the piece. Warnock plays his wife, but also maybe his consciousness and her musical repertoire delivers depth to the performance that spoken word alone is unlikely to achieve.

I was a big fan of black cats before this production (especially those with one eye) and I left loving them more. I called three people on my way home to tell them about the show to tell them to get a ticket. I’ve also downloaded some of Edgar Allen Poe to further my interest in Poe’s writing. You can’t beat that.

So, this secret is out – Go and enjoy the evil atrocities of mankind and enjoy the downfall of our narrator.

5 Stars

Review by Faye Stockley

A man’s relationship with his cat takes a horrific turn, leading to unexplainable supernatural events that rob him of everything he has.

Edgar Allan Poe’s world of horror, expressive words & morbid imagery comes to life like you’ve never seen before. Allow the narrator, played by Keaton Guimarães-Tolley & a mysterious woman, played by Catherine Warnock, to take you on a spine-chilling journey of loss, addiction & questionable sanity.

Cast | Keaton Guimarães-Tolley & Catherine Warnock

Director | Selwin Hulme-Teague
Composer | Catherine Warnock
Technical Manager | Lewis Mote
Producer | Penelope Diaz

Edgar Allan Poe’s famous horror story is brought to life in a thrilling, physical staging accompanied by live music

21st – 25th March 2023

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