BWW REVIEW: The Intriguing Intimate Thriller, DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS Returns To The Sydney Stage
Wednesday 26th April 2017, King Street Theatre, Newtown
Warwick Moss' award winning two hander mystery thriller DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS is an interesting exploration of greed, guile and gullibility as it weaves between comedy and suspense. The work that received a New South Wales Premier's Literary Award in 1984 and has been presented on West End and New York stages returns to Sydney under Tom Richard's direction.
The premise of the work is that elderly Polish migrant who has adopted the westernised name of Timothy Timmony (William Jordan) runs a little second hand book and bric-a-brac store on the third floor of a run down old building. He is visited by a frantic and flustered Simon Matthews (Gabriel Egan) just on closing time but Timothy has already sold the book to the young man's rival in a case of mistaken identity. As Simon leaves to pursue the book and his nemisis, he discovers that Timothy's vindictive landlord has locked them in with the oversize mice and bloodthirsty tomcat which leads to wo men learning more about each other. As the men settle in for the night, the cause for Simon's anxiety is uncovered as the oddly in demand book held a clue to the location of a treasure that the bogan con artist has been chasing around Asia whilst Timothy sees the opportunity for adventure away from his rather sedate monotonous life. As they share a taste for scotch, it gradually becomes clear that Timothy isn't as doddery, and Simon isn't as brave as they'd like the other to believe.
Sean Punch and Eion Ryan have created a detailed space to represents Timothy's shabby little book store. Books and odd items fill the shelves that boarder the room whilst Timothy's desk, stacked with more books, sits near the window that overlooks the street. The centre of the space is home to a table and chairs and when combined with the kitchenette and coffee machine indicates Timothy is more that used to spending lengths of time in the small space. In addition to the old phone, the costuming helps anchor the work in the 1980's.
The two men work well together to convey the contrasts in the characters. Jordan presents the migrant with a voice that wavers between thick eastern European to Aussie, indicating the old man's years in the country. He keeps the audience guessing as to Timothy's true self as he morphs between cantankerous world weary proprietor, passionate bibliophile, fearful feeble old man and excited and eager potential con man. He expresses the contradiction between polite and well mannered and defensive and dangerous.
As the thuggish, twitchy Simon, Egan presents an imposing figure, conveying Simon's confidence that intimidation usually works in manipulating victims. This is countered by the unease and panic that sets in as he discovers that Timothy isn't as ignorant of the situation as he'd originally hoped. Egan presents Simon as a jittery addict that cannot get his fix, in this instance apparently nicotine, which further adds to his aggression and volatility
DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS in an interesting, if a little drawn out, mystery that offers a night of light entertainment. For those that like mysteries with a touch of comedy and a dose of buff bare flesh, this production fits the bill.
King Street Theatre, Newtown