Why Luton audiences should see Cathy at the Hat Factory

Hayley Wareham, Amy Loughton and Cathy Owen in Cathy. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

Hayley Wareham, Amy Loughton and Cathy Owen in Cathy. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

The story of a young family’s slide into homeless comes to Luton next week in a show whose director believes has great relevance to Luton.

Cathy, which visits the Hat Factory on October 27 and 28, is produced by homelessness-focused theatre group Cardboard Citizens.

The production follows their one-off theatrical re-staging of Ken Loach’s seminal work Cathy Come Home at the Barbican in London earlier this year and is a contemporary re-telling of Loach’s original story.

First broadcast in 1966 on the BBC, Cathy Come Home depicted a young family’s slide into homelessness. The first screening of the film led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain and became a defining cultural landmark, demonstrating the power of art to effect social and political change.

Based, like the film, on true stories, Cathy looks at the social and personal impact of spiralling housing costs and the challenges of the forced relocation out of London experienced by many people on council waiting lists. The production has been researched with the support of housing and homelessness charity Shelter and each performance will end with a debate.

Playwright Ali Taylor said: “This is a very relevant story to the people of Luton because a lot of the people who are being evicted from London and placed in temporary accommodation are moving to towns such as Luton.

“We met women who had been moved from places such as Newham, Waltham Forest and other boroughs, who had been placed in accommodation in Luton. And of course what does this mean for anyone who lives in Luton? There are suddenly people in a community that you don’t know.

“There is inevitably going to be a strain on school places, health institutions. How do you cope with that?

“This play being in Luton gives people an opportunity to debate those issues. There is no simple answer.

“There is nothing judgemental in our production. We want the audiences themselves to find the answers.”

And Ali believes the play is particularly suitable for people with little experience of theatre.

He said: “If you are renting or if you have a difficult landlord, or if you are saving up but can’t afford to get a house, or if you are at risk of defaulting on your mortgage, or struggling at work because you have zero hours contract, or your work is precarious, then you are going to be going through the same issues that the characters are going through. This type of theatre is deliberately intended for people who are not the West End audience. This is the type of theatre which is inclusive. You don’t have to look a certain way, you don’t have to dress a certain way, or sound a certain way – this is entirely for you.”

The play is directed by Adrian Jackson, director of Cardboard Citizens.

Tickets cost £10 or £8 for concessions. Call 01582 878100 or visit www.luton
culture.com to book.