Catch-22 is a solid piece of theatre that mixes naturalist elements with satire and absurdity in order to highlight the paradoxical notion of ‘catch 22’, a personification of a ‘no-win scenario’. Originally based on a book by Joseph Heller, the ensemble do a fine job of recreating his ‘comedy through repetition’ style with a mix of fantastic line delivery and expressive performances.
A minimalistic set and believable 1940 period costume and music helped set the overall atmosphere from the outset. One highlight was the actors’ use of the set and overall staging, so props to Mike Cottrell for ensuring the staging had variation to keep things interesting.
Due to the fact the book, and thus the play, doesn’t follow chronological structure, the style seemed slightly confused at first, flicking between expressionistic satire to genuine naturalistic moments and some sections that were a mix of both. However, the style and pacing soon settled into an entertaining story featuring a good variation of both comedic and emotive scenes. The play was really pulled forward by the lead, Bret Ware, playing the disillusioned pilot Captain Yossarian, who believes he’s flown his fair share of missions and spends all his time attempting to leave the army. Ware features in the only real emotive sections of the play, and provides the only character the audience can relate to and cares about. Further, the subtle eccentric vibes came across from Captain Yossarian, showing an understanding of the character Heller was trying to create.
Some comparatively slow sections were overshadowed with expressive performances. Luke Nicholls stands out as the eccentric and ill-witted Colonel Cathcart, with some decent line delivery that gave a shine to the play. The same can be said of both Sam Dobson and Joe Buckingham with impressive and explosive performances that light up the stage every scene they feature in.
The most memorable scenes featured original ideas, such as Captain Yossarian leaping upon Major Major’s back in order to hold his attention. It would have been nice to see more scenes like this to provide further engagement, and such energy seemed lacking in a few scenes, particularly in the middle section where a few scenes seem a bit bland in comparison. However, the line delivery of the comedy scenes was mostly spot on, with particular reference to Will Kynaston and Hayley Jones in a scene in which they interrogate a helpless Yossarian.
The cast really came into their element towards the end, with a dream-like sequence complimented by ominous alternating lights, which made a pleasant and intriguing change to the usual straw wash used elsewhere.
Overall, the pacing and performances, primarily in the second act, was very impressive and is definitely worth a watch.
Catch 22 will be on at The Annex Theatre until the 9th March. Book your tickets through SUSU Box Office. £6 for students and £5 for PA members.