Review: Catch 22 at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton

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Catch 22 kick started a national tour since 13th of May and it arrived at Nuffield Theatre on Tuesday.

This satirical adaption of both Joseph Heller’s book and stage version of his novel by Northern Stage directed by Rachel Chavkin is a mix of comedy and tragedy. Main character bombardier John Yossarian (Philip Arditti) tries to persuade Colonel Cathcart (Michael Hodgson) that he has completed enough flying missions and wanted to be sent home. Yossarian and his fellow airmen have been flying bombing missions during the Second World War, but every time they reached the required number of flying missions to go home, the total number of the flights keep increasing. Determined to stay alive after witnessing the death of some of his friends, he needs to find a way out of it. This is where the title comes in, “there’s a catch”. Everything has a catch, you have to be sane enough to prove you insanity.

There is definitely witty banter and well expressed dilemma, but unfortunately they are watered down by the unexpectedly long length of the play. While audiences exclaim how Yossarian is well acted by Philip Arditti, they cannot help but add that the time had passed tediously. If you are not familiar with what the term Catch 22 means, there are definitely abundant repetitions of examples throughout the play to accentuate its dichotomy, and you most probably can come up with one of you own when you walk out of the theatre, after all, sitting there for over three hours did give everyone some pondering time.

The set of a fuselage of an aircraft creates a nice atmosphere; everything revolves around the aircraft, which fits the story. It is especially noteworthy that even though the setting does not altered much in between the two acts, the removal of the doors revealing the inside of the aircraft in the second act highlights the revelation that came along with the story. From the constant humour slowly progressing to melancholia, the story of Yossarian’s genuine desperate will to live has been well presented with a rich narrative, and the performance is spot on, but you just have to sit through the length to enjoy it and not want a way out, as Yossarian does.

It was definitely an impressive performance, given the fact that a nine person cast put it all together. However, there are some moments of confusion for the audiences. The plot is non-linear and it takes a while to realise when the timeline switches, especially when the second act opens, it just all of a sudden go back to a certain point in the past.

Another thing that is quite baffling is the numerous dancing actors, as it does not help with the plot much, on top of that, many of the actors play more than two characters with little visual difference. Having them around the stage constantly was just a bit too overwhelming, especially when the choreographies often come with flashing lights and loud music.

6/10 – Rather enjoyable, but may not be to everyone’s taste due to its length

Catch22 is showing at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, until 7th June and then carries on the national tour until 28th June. Tickets can be purchased at www.northernstage.co.uk.

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