CAT shows cruelty of risking all for fame

Gerard McCarthy in one-man show CAT
Gerard McCarthy in one-man show CAT

Belfast-actor Gerard McCarthy, still best known for his role in Hollyoaks and more recently for starring in spookily Scandi locally filmed crime drama The Fall, is back on stage at the Grand Opera House this evening in CAT, a satire of the desperate quest for fame - what must be the malady of our time.

This witty production, written by Jamie Beamish and Richard Hardwick, is a comedic deconstruction of one musical theatre actor’s fall from grace - a show which has previously wowed at the Edinburgh Festival.

It follows Dave, poised to play the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS, but replaced by Elaine Paige at the crucial moment and years later still wearing the costume and singing all the songs, lamenting the time in the limelight that should have been his but which so cruelly passed him by.

When McCarthy, 34, left drama school he spent four or five years working diligently in musical theatre in London’s West End and although he has spent years pursuing TV projects he still delights in the medium - the big songs, the choreographed scenes, the emotion and the bright lights.

“There’s nothing like going to watch a musical with 40 or 50 dancers and one of them coming out and singing a huge big number - there’s something so seductive, so wonderful about it,” he observes. “I love the story of the lead character here.

“He was cast in the original production of CATS in 1981 and ten minutes before curtain up he gets sacked by Andrew Lloyd Webber. In his mind he imagines that he would be as big a star today as Elaine Paige if he had not have been given the heave-ho. All these years later he is still wearing the costume, still doing the dance routines, still singing all the songs.

“There’s still this mad craving in him for fame, for those fifteen minutes up there in the spotlight. I know so many people like that who would do anything for those 15 minutes on stage or on TV just because they so desperately want to be famous - they’d probably settle for five minutes on Crimewatch if they thought it would get them noticed!”

“With shows like Britain’s Got Talent and The X-Factor you realise that this desperate need for recognition and fame is actually disturbingly widespread and that’s really want gives this show such broad resonance.

“So many people on there are like ‘I could be the next Beyonce!’” quips Gerard about The X-Factor. “And you’re sat there thinking ‘no, love, you really couldn’t!’”

In CAT McCarthy is definitely the butt of the joke: “The audience aren’t so much laughing with him as at him. It’s just absurd how he has been so unable to move on, and how stuck he is in the same role fretting about the fame he imagines should now be his.

“But Dave has finally been given a night on stage and now it is finally his moment to show audiences just what he can do.”

McCarthy confides that this one-man show is pretty hard on the nerves, but that the final rounds of applause make the necessary psychological trials worthwhile.

“It’s just the hardest thing you can do,” he adds. “When you are first called up on stage and you’re walking across towards the spotlight before it all begins it’s just so terrifying that you wonder if you could maybe make a break for it - but the thought of people catching sight of a man in a catsuit on Glengall Street does hold me back!

“It’s just you and the audience and you have absolutely nobody to back you up. But this is theatre in its purest form. It’s just me up there telling a story.

“At the end of the night when you stand up and they are laughing and clapping it’s just like nothing else in the world.”

After the satirical fun and musical high-jinx of CAT, McCarthy will next be seen in the new series of The Fall alongside Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson.

But, alas, he can tell us basically nothing about reprising the role of Kevin McSwain in the gritty TV drama.

“I had to sign a document as thick as the Bible telling me I am not allowed to talk about the new season of The Fall.”

But watch this space. McCarthy soon returns in the taut crime thriller as another series ponders the evil mystery of Paul Spector and the women he so fatally ensnares.

lGerard McCarthy stars in CAT at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, February 18 and 19. Visit www.goh.co.uk/ or call 02890 241 919.