by Tom Fowler
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Cast: 10f 15m plus 53f/m
A darkly comic story about social inequality and upheaval, told in reverse.
katzenmusik (German, n.) caterwaul; a shrill howling or wailing noise (of a cat).
A viral video, a company capitalising on fear, prank calls, class divide and a cat memorial.
The increasing income gap between rich and poor has pushed the residents of Burnside Town to breaking point.
katzenmusik was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, by the Royal Court Youth Theatre.
Content guidance: This play contains very strong language, and references to violence and suicide.
About the author
Tom Fowler is a graduate of the Playwrighting MA at Royal Holloway. In 2016 he was one of ten writers to be commissioned for the Royal Court’s Open Court festival. As part of this, his play Roman Candle was performed in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. His subsequent work includes katzenmusik, a commission for the Royal Court Youth Theatre; and Suspicious Minds, a Pleasance co-production for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Suspicious Minds was later produced as a play for BBC Radio 4 starring Susannah Fielding and Tom Mothersdale. He has also participated in an invitational writers’ group at the Royal Court led by Alice Birch, and has presented work at several scratch nights including Freshly Scratched (Battersea Arts Centre), A Pleasance Scratch (Pleasance), and Itch + Scratch (Hackney Showrooms).
Interview with Tom Fowler
katzenmusik is about a campaign of social vengeance. What drew you to write it?
I was commissioned to write the Royal Court’s Youth Theatre show towards the end of 2016, after Britain had voted to leave the EU and America had elected Donald Trump. As someone who was politically complacent at the time, I naively felt like these events came out of nowhere, and were incongruous with how I understood the world. I wanted to write a play to reflect my process of looking back and understanding the context in which these happened.
The script was partly devised with the original company. How did this inform the finished play?
It primarily informed the play through the practical requirements of writing for such a large cast, and my attempt to ensure everyone contributed as equally as possible. Whilst the concept deliberately lends itself to featuring a large, diverse range of Burnside’s inhabitants, I often conceived of characters and situations based on the interests and abilities of individual cast members.
There are over 70 speaking roles in the play. How did you give importance to each voice?
I tried to give importance to each voice by having as many as possible reflecting different social and political perspectives on the events taking place in the town. Whilst some characters have more of a traditional story line than others, hopefully each voice contributes something to our understanding of the massacre.
Do you have any advice for actors performing the play, or for directors staging it?
A useful part of our original process was regularly discussing recent political events, and how our cast members felt about them. Early on we did an improvisational exercise where the cast members were asked to physically embody people with different political beliefs. Perhaps predictably, when representing right-wing individuals their movements and gestures became overly villainous and grotesque. Obviously the director can make stylistic choices as they see fit. However, for us, it was important to delve into the circumstances that has led each character to think and act the way they do, and attempt to understand them all as empathetically as possible.