Pussycat in Memory of Darkness
Finborough Theatre, London
by Neda Nezhdana. Translated by John Farndon
Directed by Polly Creed
Cast: Kristin Milward
Producer: Katteklør Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre
Dates of run: Until April 22 and touring to Germany
Running time: an hour
Kristin Milward’s performance of Pussycat in Memory of Darkness in Kyiv in December was the first visiting foreign production in the capital since the Russian invasion began in February last year.
She performed an English-language version of Ukrainian playwright Neda Nezhdana’s text in Kyiv’s ProEnglish theatre, whose mission is to highlight Ukraine’s links to Europe and the West and prove there is more to life in Ukraine, even in the midst of war, than mere survival.
With unabated passion for the cause, Milward has since taken the show to the United States and this month has brought it back to London’s Finborough Theatre where the production was first staged last August. She also has shows planned for Germany.
More than a year since the latest invasion, her performance is an urgent reminder for anyone in danger of forgetting that lives are still being ruined and that Ukraine’s misery pre-dates the current violence, as Kitten in Memory of Darkness tells the story of how the Euromaidan revolution triggered Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.
The kitten is a miraculous survivor after a betrayal by a pro-Russian neighbour in Russian-controlled Donbas causes a woman to lose virtually everything. An everywoman that could be any one of us were we born in the wrong place, the protagonist is known only as She. She names the kitten Joy – which is at once ironic and true. As a black kitten, lucky or unlucky depending on your viewpoint, it’s a symbol of the darkness of those who torture and kill the innocent and vulnerable and of the defiant human spirit.
Milward, under Creed’s direction, inhabits the role and takes us as close as an outsider can get to the experience of invasion and occupation. She makes a one-woman play the perfect vehicle for the story of a woman whose once rich life, peopled with a loving family living in an ancestral home, is stripped back to just herself – her inner strength and a tiny kitten.
Barbara Lewis © 2023.