52 years on from Ken Loach burst on to the scene with his documentary film Cathy Come Home, many hailed him as a controversial figure when in fact Loach’s aim in my opinion was to challenge the political and social status quo of the time and show the reality of life for some people. Loach has been a life-long socialist and throughout his film career he has never tried to hide that, which is one of the things I certainly admire him for. However, political differences aside Loach’s back catalogue of work has always had people at the heart of it. People who we recognise, our mother, father, best friend and of course the people who have reached a crisis trying to survive in a flawed political and social system.
Cardboard Citizens commissioned a modern-day Cathy for their 25th birthday, which also coincided with the 50th anniversary of Loach’s film. But the housing system crisis is felt even more in 2018 than in 1966. We only have to look at the rise of working people visiting food banks, zero hour contracts and deep-rooted policy failures just like the recent Windrush scandal to realise our government and structures in place are failing people who are continually contributing to society in many different ways including financially, despite their low incomes. I was interested to find out if modern-day Cathy could connect to audiences and create the tide of emotion to get people inspired to take action against the issues of the housing crisis today.
In this version of Cathy we are introduced to single Mum Cathy and daughter Danielle and follow their journey over an 18 month period. Cathy is a character that I’m sure we can all understand and relate to. The heart of Cathy is a woman who is family orientated, battling life pressures left, right and centre but at the core, Cathy is a woman who would do anything to ensure her daughter Danielle has the same opportunities and education as every other child and not be limited because of her financial circumstances.
As rent arrears creep up support becomes limited by the housing system and as the net begins to close around Cathy we see more judgements and assumptions of her life come to the fore. Cathy’s own sister even belittles her and remarks that the choices she has made in life has led to her homelessness. Cathy’s protests of doing her best, working 3 jobs at one time and single handled raising her daughter with a gambling husband fall on deaf ears and human compassion is seriously lacking. I often wonder why the people who need help the most become the most judged, criticised; where is the community spirit that we were once so famed for post-world war two?!
The set was simplistic with just the use of blocks to separate scenes and some chairs and soft cushions. Featured interviews were used as audio and video clips were projected on to the set in-between scene changes. For me this kept the strong connection with the story and actually reinforced the reality that the events that happened to the main characters of this story is happening every day right across this country.
Cathy is a performance that further highlights the issues that were shown 52 years ago and how far we still have to go in our social system. What we fundamentally lack as a nation is human compassion for others, we have to acknowledge that we all capable of being a Cathy and when we do, only then will we be able to see the real change that is still so desperately needed.
By Ali Taylor / Directed by Adrian Jackson