Penny McCarthy’s illustrations at performance of ‘Beware the Cat’ at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts – Friday 10 May 2019

Image from Beware the Cat by Penny McCarthy

The world’s first ever English novel – a little known satire of magic and religious controversy written during a time of immense political and social change across England and Europe – has been brought to life by researchers at the Universities of Sussex, Sheffield, and Sheffield Hallam.

Cat Shadow Puppet – one of the specially commissioned images for the performance (Beware the Cat, Festival of the Mind) by Penny McCarthy

© Penny McCarthy

The novel, Beware the Cat, was written in 1552 before many of the more well-known early modern writers published their first work. It tells a tale of witchcraft, religious controversy, and talking cats in a bid to help us imagine what animals might say about the world if they had the ability to talk.

Centred on the grisly alchemical experiments of a rambling priest seeking to understand the language of cats, the story asks a question that has provoked humans across the ages: do birds and beasts have reason?

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Falmer BN1 9QF
Friday 10 May 2019, 7PM – 8.15PM
Free but ticketed.

Professor Frances Babbage from the University of Sheffield’s School of English and Dr Rachel Stenner from the School of English at the University of Sussex have worked with Terry O’Connor from UK theatre ensemble Forced Entertainment and Penny McCarthy from Sheffield Hallam’s Fine Art department to adapt the novel into a theatre performance for audiences across the UK.

Supported by: University of Sheffield, Festival of the Mind, Society for Renaissance Studies, University of Sussex and the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Penny McCarthy is a Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. Find out more about her work here.

Image by Penny McCarthy © Penny McCarthy