Down an Alley Filled with Cats is an Australian play written in 1987, by Warwick Moss. It is a two handed small-time conman comedy-thriller. Timothy Timmony, a Polish refugee second-hand book seller matches wits with a petty Aussie ‘crook’, Simon Matthews, in search of a 12th Century Sung Dynasty vase treasure (The Maltese Falcon?!) worth an estimated ‘half-a-million’.
Two contrasting characters from two different worlds locked in the same space, over night, apply their wiles amusingly, intriguingly in classic “Who’s telling the truth?” “Are they who they say they are?” “Who’s doing what now?” and “Who do I believe?” style. As the director, Tom Richards, says in his program notes: ‘We quickly learn to expect the unexpected!’ That’s the fun of this light entertainment and although it doesn’t have the theatrical (disguise) surprises (or budget demands) of a play like Anthony Shaffer’s 1970 comic thriller, Sleuth, it certainly reminds one of it.
On a depressingly realistic set, that does look like many a second-hand bookstore in the local neighbourhood, on King St, Gabriel Egan (Simon) and William Jordan (Timothy), play it out with, as yet, a nervous bravado. Still finding their way with the text and audience, the performances should grow in confidence as the run progresses. Both these actors make the characters a winning personality – audience allegiance can switch from one to the other with ease, and one begins to ‘invent’ the solution to each of the plots twists for them – it is kind of fun.
I had never seen the play before, or read it, and am delighted to have caught it. It has a surprising confidence in plotting and a deft hand at characterisation and comedy-suspense. Along with Ron Blair’s President Wilson in Paris, it represents a genre of Australian playwriting that is rarely seen or appreciated.
Company: Throwing Shade Theatre Co/EMU Productions
Venue: King St Theatre, Newtown, Sydney
Dates: 25 April – 13 May 2017
For more of Kevin Jackson’s theatre reviews, check out his blog at Kevin Jackson’s Theatre Diary
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Unqualified (Ensemble) – theatre review
- Single Asian Female (Belvoir) – theatre review
- Taking Steps (Ensemble) – theatre review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television