Anthony Banks will direct a transatlantic production of Herding Cats by Lucinda Coxon, combining live in-person and streamed theatre. Marking a new type of international collaboration, the production is simultaneously accessible online to audiences across the globe via Stellar and in person, with social distancing in line with current UK government guidelines, at Soho Theatre.
This production features two actors performing for an in-person audience on Soho Theatre’s stage with a third actor performing live via video from the United States. Directed by Anthony Banks – reunited with Coxon following their collaboration on the world première production – this revival utilises the creative technology pioneered during the pandemic, and combines it with the raw intimacy of in-person performance.
Herding Cats, directed by Anthony Banks, runs 20th – 23rd May 2021. Tickets are on sale here.
You’re directing Herding Cats at Soho Theatre, what can you tell us about it?
This new production contains a big experiment which we’re using to tell the story. One of the three actors is performing live in Los Angeles while the other two perform live at Soho Theatre. The play holds up a fearless magnifying glass on various quests for intimacy and independence while trying to survive in a big city.
One story plays out while two characters are on the phone to one another – it’s this story that we’re presenting using Andrzej Goulding’s extraordinary video art and Ben & Max Ringham’s extraordinary sound design so that you can see and hear both characters side by side even though the actors are over five thousand miles apart.
What’s the biggest challenge in directing a transatlantic production?
Surprisingly few challenges because our stage manager is completely brilliant and across all the technology, so we haven’t had any glitches. I guess the two tricky things are the 8 hours time difference between London and LA making scheduling quite tight and the absence of down-time for the actors to share, there’s none of the usual pre-show dressing room banter or sharing a snack and discussing other things outside the life of the show.
Lucinda Coxon wrote the play ten years ago, why do you think it’s so relevant today?
During rehearsals a lot of people have commented that it seemed ‘ahead of its time’ back then and is extremely ripe and relevant now. Returning to direct this new production, the universe around it does seem drastically different: Justine’s rant about the property market has become an austere reality for young adults.
The #MeToo movement has busted characters like Justine’s boss out of the safety of their back-offices but there’s still loads more work to be done. Gender identity is recognised not only by the health service but also by education. We’re entering the twenties reassessing each other and it’s a bumpy ride, like herding cats. And like the character Michael, over the last twelve months, many of us have experienced extraordinary isolation. The play explores disappointment – in the footsteps of Beckett and Chekhov – but it also contains a rallying, raging cry for fairness, for equality, for justice. It’s a love story but it’s also a protest.
Herding Cats will be available online as well as for in-person performances, do you think this is what the future of live theatre looks like?
Who knows after the year we’ve all just had?! We’re probably in for a few more surprises. It’s great to be involved in an ambitious experiment like this but nothing beats the communal experience of live theatre. This is because when watching streamed performances you’re a solitary audience member with no real connection either to other members of the audience around you or to the actors. Whether comedy or tragedy, this art form needs a group of people in the same room for it to be what it is.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Herding Cats?
Click your mouse! There aren’t many tickets and they’ve almost all gone!