I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I was asked to see Passpawt by new company HeavenLee Theatre. What I got was a pleasant 55 minutes in the company of performer Elise Heaven. Expertly written and paced, Heaven tells the tail (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the fractious and tempestuous relationship she has with her cat named Linda.
Helena, played by Heaven is a slightly lonely and geeky graduate who turns to felines to love rather than humans. She replies to an advert that says the cat is lovable and affectionate. What arrives in the form of Linda, is a human hating, violent and thoroughly hooligan like animal who rules Helena’s life. She has to move out of her shared house and starts to lose friends.
The script is amusing and is an accurate portrait of human and cat behaviour. The programme seems to suggest that it is based on a true story and a real cat. Helena was born in Slovakia and as such has a Slovak passport. She only lived in Slovakia for five years and feels English through and through. If she wanted to get a British passport, she would have to give up her Slovak passport. She says that having the Slovak passport makes her feel closer to her family with whom she keeps in contact with via Skype.
Jamie Lee directs the show with a light touch and keeps the staging simple. There are packing boxes on the stage to represent the fact that she is a Slovakian living in Britain and is not sure where her heart lies. The Skype ringtone is the motif that carries through all the scene changes. It is Skype that is her only link to her roots and her past. Linda is her only companion in her new world, but makes her life a misery and even gets her some police warnings along the way.
When Helena’s father passes away, she starts to think about going back to live with her mother and brother in Slovakia. She thinks about killing Linda or leaving her behind, but realises she has to take her with her. She is her closest friend. The irony is that Linda can get a British pet passport and would be able to get back into Britain with no problems. With Brexit on the horizon, it would be much more complicated for Helena to get back in with her Slovak passport.
Helena manages to get Linda on the plane with much comedy and hassle. When they get to Slovakia, it turns out that Linda loves Helena’s mother and feels really at home there. So the British cat stays in Slovakia and the Slovakian woman goes back to Britain. It is a simple idea and I was faintly disappointed by the ending, as the whole show had led up to this almost too simplistic identity idea.
On the whole, though, Heaven gives an accomplished performance and is a master at physical comedy and comic timing. The show is moving on to the Brighton Festival in May. I look forward to their next offering.