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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Theatre review: Cat Killer is a thrilling undertaking

When’s the last time you actually said “wow” in a theatre? Out loud. There are moments in Cat Killer, an immersive merging of reality and the virtual currently playing at North Vancouver’s Presentation House, that will have you doing just that.

In groups of three, each audience member is provided an iPod Touch and a headset. As you wander inside and out of the Presentation House facility, you match what you are seeing on the screen with the real environment around you. In its synching of the two worlds, what you see on screen becomes an extension of what you are witnessing in the real world, and vice versa. At times the action happens on the screen, at times in real-life, and in its truly mind-blowing moments the two merge seamlessly.

Inside these two realities is a mystery of what happened to 400 or so cats that have been found murdered in the Ottawa area. Getting its inspiration from a real-life incident that occurred back in the 90s, that mystery really only becomes an excuse for this theatrical experience, for by the end there is little to tie it all together and the resolution of the mystery is by far the show’s biggest let-down.

But along the way there are some really exciting things going on. Real-life photos on a wall morph into moving pictures on the small hand-held screens, and in a couple of scenes you get “inside” the head of the characters. There is even a virtual shower scene that while seemingly incongruent to the action, is nonetheless unexpected, and oddly electrifying. The 75 minute production is filled with such surprises.

Of this large cast, both on video and in real-life, there a few standouts. Tom McBeath is convincing as both father and suspect, and Steven Masson is ultimately believable as he walks his own line between reality and fantasy. Bartender Alexander Lowe was not phased as he got me back on track after a hiccup with my video device and proving that non-speaking roles can have impact, Jamie Lawson is an awesome “driver”.

In a show like this it is impossible to ignore the creators of the video portion which includes Karl-Heinz Stenz, Joel Grinke, Malcolm Dow, Jon Atnctil, and Roy Mulder. Merging the film and live action worlds together are directors Winfried Wrede and Kim Selody.

While at times its narrative becomes a little messy and takes a backseat to the experience, in those moments where the virtual world and the real world seamlessly overlap, Cat Killer is a truly thrilling undertaking.

Cat Killer created by Kim Selody and Winfried Wrede. Live theatre directed by Kim Selody. Film directed by Winfried Wrede. A Presentation House Theatre and Theater Wrede+ co-production. On stage at Presentation House (333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver) until March 15. Visit for tickets and information.

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