Sequel comedy shows are interesting – do they simply rehash the old material and potentially become sterile; or do they try for something new and get accused of selling out? Fortunately, Katie Cullinan’s Further Tales of a Catastrophist (follow up from the previous show Tales of a Catastrophist) is in neither category fully, but steers the middle course between re-examining the older approach whilst exploring new ideas (and new songs), which makes for a fun and enjoyable evening out.
One thing both the Catastrophist series do well is handle the sensitive topic of anxiety. By focusing the performance on her own lived experiences, Cullinhan manages to make the potentially horrific experience of panic and overthinking into something that the audience can simultaneously laugh about, but also relate to. Without giving away any of the gags, it was evident that effort had been put into the show and how to tackle the issue – and that is appreciated. Whether deliberately done as a way to reduce stigma around mental illness, or just a humorous exploration of moments in her own life, Cullinan has done well in this regard.
Cullinan and her co-performer Cameron are clearly strong musicians, and they play songs that both are comfortable with – clearly a lot of rehearsal time went into the musical aspect of this production. The song choices, whilst less overtly humorous than her previous show, had a lot more “anthems” – so much so that audience members were quietly singing along or tapping their feet in time. By using well known tunes, and performing them well (she has a very impressive set of pipes on her), Cullinan carries the day with her repertoirefor the show.
Unfortunately the show is not perfect. Part of the charm with the nervous and rambling style is that there is still some form of foundation or common theme to be found amidst the burbles – and this was something that is not as fully explored as it possibly could have been. Whilst the theme of “safety in the music of the 1980’s” makes for some cool listening (and, as has been discussed, impressive musical performing), it unfortunately means it does not quite reach the (admittedly high) bar set by the original Tales of a Catastrophist. This does not mean the show dragged on or was aimless – and it is still good viewing.
Overall, a fun little cabaret number. Although it does not fully fill the shoes of the previous show, Cullinan’s performance is still fun and funny, and deals with serious issues in an engaging, relatable, and entertaining manner. A night of fun music and good humour is something to check out if you get a chance.