From the moment you walk into Stage 1 in Northern Stage Theatre you are immersed in the Spirit of WWII and Catch-22. On the stage sits a large, generic decrepit plane surrounded by debris. It immediately grabs your attention and foreshadows the spectacular and nightmarish nature of the show. For those who haven’t read the book the beginning of the play seems somewhat confusing, adiposity with quick transformations from flight scenes to hospital beds. As the play evolves we understand the plight of lead bombardier Yossarian who wants nothing else than to stay alive, plagued by the death of his former comrade. The decisions of the promotion-seeking Colonol Cathcart prevent this by continuously increasing the number of missions the men need to fly, compromising Yossarian’s and his comrades attempts to stay alive.
Whilst the show is quite complex with a long second act this is the unavoidable nature of the writing of Joseph Heller. The cast triumphantly take up this challenge and come out on top. Philip Arditti astounds the audience with his portrayal of the half-crazed and incredibly desperate Yossarian. He is supported by the rich talent of David Webber and Michael Hodgson who provide comedic relief throughout the show in their roles as Major Major and Colonel Cathcart respectively. However great praise must be given to Daniel Ainsworth, Geoff Arnold, Victoria Bewick, Simon Darwen, Liz Kettle and Christopher Price in their effortless transformations in the split of a second from one character to another.
The show is a perfect mixture of hedonism, shown through the surprising dancing talent of the cast through a mix of 1940s dancing, and despair as the second act delves into the mental stress of warfare. The set is inspired, supporting the comedic talent of Major Major who constantly escapes through his window only to be captured by the CID men. The sound and lighting really engender the nightmarish sense of warfare. Whilst the complex time frame adds confusion this is evidently due to the Heller’s script. Overall this is a great performance by the cast and crew and definitely one worth seeing.
Words: Annie Preston
Photography credited to Topher McGrillis
Catch-22 is showing at The Northern Stage 29th April- 2nd May 2014 http://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/catch-22