Nine lives and nihilism in this feline existential crisis.
An ‘Act’ of Rebellion
By Tobias Madden
It’s that time again: The opening of Act Two. Here I am, a grown woman crawling around in front of two thousand people pretending to be a cat; quite literally licking my ‘paws’ and scratching my ‘tail.’ My unitard is drenched with cold sweat from the rigour of Act One. My nose itches, but I can’t scratch it because I’ll smudge my freshly touched-up makeup. My head is burning inside this ridiculous wig. The pins sting my scalp.
I settle into my position as the overture finishes and Old Deuteronomy begins to sing:
“The moments of happiness…” he bellows operatically.
Happiness? Really? We might look happy. But it’s a Sunday matinee and I’d rather be in bed. Or anywhere but here.
And I’m sitting on my tail. It digs into my ankle and a dull ache spreads to my foot.
“We had the experience, but missed the meaning..”
I’m certainly missing the meaning right now. The fools out there watching can’t possibly believe (even for a split second) that we’re actually cats. Right? Yes, our acting is wonderful and our technique flawless, but we’re still a bunch of adults pretending to be animals that can sing and dance. That’s insane, right? Can someone please remind me why I’m doing this?
“…revived in the meaning, is not the experience…”
How many times have I sat here and listened to this song that nobody knows the actual meaning of? Umm, well, sixteen months on tour, times four is… sixty-four weeks.. times eight shows a week is… (My brain wasn’t built for mathematics)… is… five hundred and twelve shows! But I missed three shows when I had the flu, and four when I sprained my metatarsal… so five hundred and five shows. I’ve sat here five hundred and five times doing the EXACT SAME THING. Every. Day. I’ve worn the same costume, the same makeup, sang the same lyrics, danced the same choreography (with expert precision might I add) FIVE FUCKING HUNDRED AND FIVE TIMES!
“…but of many generations…”
Shit, my solo is coming up. I’ve only got a few more bars of music to get myself together. Unless… What if Jemima doesn’t want to sing today? What if I don’t feel like it?
I’ve been told exactly where to stand, what face to pull, what to sing and how to sing it, but… I don’t actually have to do it… do I?
I could just… not sing…
“…that is probably quite ineffable.” Old Deut is done. He sits down and the orchestra plays the intro to my line. I stand up, open my arms to the auditorium, smile… and…
The other ‘cats’ look to me expectantly as the orchestra plays the intro once more.
“Someone else can sing the fucking song today,” I say, my voice amplified by microphone.
Someone gasps loudly in their seat.
I unpin my wig and toss it onto the floor as I walk towards the front of the stage. My fellow performers are frozen in place. Whispers flood the awkward silence. I skip down the stairs into the auditorium with a gleeful laugh and strut down the centre aisle of the theatre. A gleaming green EXIT sign beckons me forth.
“Have fun with the pussies!” I shout at a granny, aghast in her seat.
At a run, I burst through the exit door into the foyer, into daylight, into FREEDOM…
…I hear the introduction to my song. My consciousness snaps sharply back into my body. I take a deep breath and sing, as sweetly as an angel, “Moonlight, turn your face to the moonlight…”