Horatio and Me by Lettie Mckie


– reviewed by James Webster

ArtsLav – a venue that’s ‘flush’ with success

I’ve always been a fan of site-specific shows; putting art into unexpected and strange places is a great way to craft a unique and interesting event, but I have to say I was surprised when I heard that this gig was being staged in a disused, Victorian public toilet. What surprised me even more was how cosily charming it was! We were greeted with a teacup full of gin and tonic, the venue was decorated with a plethora of tealights scattered amongst the urinals and stalls, and the whole venue was made to feel nice and homey with a cosy armchair, knick-knacks, books (including an impressive selection of Wodehouse stories) and a giant portrait of Horatio the cat.

Lettie Mckie also performed the entire piece in a very comfortable looking onesie. As you do.

Not having sex in the city

What followed was a series of escapades from Lettie‘s attempts to find love in the city of London, with her cat Horatio as her constant companion (represented here by a somewhat hilarious oversized portrait of him). From the get-god Mckie showed a dab hand with characterisation, creating what could only be assumed to be a loose parody/exaggeration of herself, creating an air of cat-lady-in-waiting who is determined her lot should be ‘no more the drunken, pervy lout’ and go looking for something special. Initial signs are promising (‘a doctor by the name of Nick/ charming, ginger: tick and tick’), it quickly degenerates into an entertaining parade of awful dates (complete with jokes at the expense of writers, larpers and hipsters).

She’s quick to make jokes out of rhyme, characters and wordplay, keep things moving along on gentle tide of laughter, but it’s in the piece’s recurring romantic interest/antagonist that she most succeeds: Banker George is a pervy, posh, entitled douchebag who was so well-realised I swear it could’ve been someone I know (and hate). You can tell someone’s created an impressively dislike-able character when all your notes are ridden with expletives and in ALL CAPS.

The ginger raconteur

Ahem, anyway, the pleasing gawkiness of the dating poems, the clear affection the poet has for the eponymous feline, and the frequent chuckle-bait gave the show a real warmth and heart. And while the continual rhyming couplets were initially a bit jarring, as they just kept on coming they gave the show a great rhythm and steady pace, creating a ‘dirty bedtime story’ kind of vibe that really worked for the material.

Mckie‘s clear, structured and engaging storytelling was also augmented by some very nice staging. From embarrassing grinding (right up in our faces), to making us bow and curtsy to the ‘Lord High Admiral of the Fleet’ (i.e. Horatio the cat) and Banker George (BG)’s horribly posh voice, she really committed and went the extra mile in pursuit of her gags.

The poetic equivalent of a onesie – in a good way!

Lettie Mckie‘s comic charm, flair for performance and colourful characters wrapped this tale of romantic mishaps up warmly, drawing the stories around the audience in comfortably grubby fashion (like a onesie made of words). It was a fun spin on the classic ‘single girl in the big city’ trope, the story’s occasional moments of filth (both figurative and literal) nicely setting off and slightly subverting the genre, while the central figure of Horatio kept popping up amusingly as Lettie‘s erstwhile companion in singledom and the judgmental, feline guardian angel of her love life.

While I usually prefer my poetry shows to have some kind of message or issue (generally being a fan of issue-based drama), Lettie‘s nicely crafted setting, involving use of stagecraft and well-told story carried me away in her tale of feline admiralty, posh banker douches and internet-dating mishaps. Plus, it was a good reminder that playing the dating game as a woman, in a town full of hipsters and lecherous pseudo-misogynists, is pretty much playing on hard mode (seriously, if even half of those misadventures were based on fact then serious kudos to her for sticking with it).

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. A ripping, rhyme-powered, alcohol-fueled yarn that is heartily recommended. Definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in a public toilet.