by Karla Comanda
For better or for worse, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats has had people talking since the musical’s premiere in 1980, the buzz only becoming louder when the movie trailer was launched in the summer. The film adaptation of this long-standing musical has been widely panned, garnering a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes upon its release, and its brutal reviews touted as being better than the actual movie. But it’s not just Cats that puts felines in the spotlight! Did you know that there’s a slew of other plays featuring everyone’s favourite pet? Without further ado, here are other plays in which cats are at the heart of the show:
1. The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh
Set in 1993 Ireland, this play follows the story of Mad Padraic, a lieutenant in an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) off-shoot, who rushes back home after receiving news that his cat, Wee Thomas, is ill. When he returns, he finds out that his cat is not sick, but dead. And as he grapples with the death of Wee Thomas (while threatening to kill his father and the teenager who found the cat on the side of the road), other INLA agents are also plotting his assassination.
2. King Cat Calico Finally Flies Free! by Aaron Henne
When you live on your own and have 150 cats in an 1,100 square foot apartment, you’re bound to have a favourite. But what if that favourite cat is actively trying to escape their hoarder’s home, their efforts always fruitless? This is what Aaron Henne’s absurdist dramedy explores, underscoring themes of loneliness, ownership, and finding one’s place in the world through the lens of a typified crazy cat lady.
3. Mga Estranghero at ang Gabi (Strangers and the Night) by Jun Lana
Penned by renowned Filipino writer Jun Lana, Mga Estranghero ng Gabi won him a Palanca Award in 1994, which is the Philippines’ highest prize in literature. A decade later, the script was adapted for the big screen and renamed Pusang Gala (Stray Cats). This dark comedy follows the story of Boyet, a gay novelist who has a fondness for bringing stray cats and lovers back into his home, and his best friend and neighbour, Marta, who often longs for her absentee lover as both try to navigate their love lives (or their delusions of it).
4. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
We’re cheating a little bit by including a work that most people know as a novel, but Murakami’s award-winning book has been adapted for the stage by American playwright Frank Galati. Kafka on the Shore sees two distinct plots woven together in the course of the story, one of them being that of Nakata’s, an old man who has the ability to communicate with cats.
5. Alley Cats by B.K. Anderson and K.E. Zemliya
This homegrown musical comedy had its world premiere in 2005 at the Vogue Theatre! Led by Broadway veteran Lea DeLaria and National Ballet star Rex Harrington, Alley Cats has a story that most people in Vancouver would be familiar with: property owner Hilda wants to demolish the buildings in the block she owns to establish a giant café called Megakins, and the residents unite to save their neighbourhood and the cats.