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  • When you can’t travel home, will your home come to you?

    Image:

    Zhaolin Zhou shares his journey working with Walking Cats over the last two years, an autobiographical performance exploring homesickness and migrant identity. Coming to CPT Tue 1 and Wed 2 Nov at 7.15pm.

    I started Walking Cats when I had something to say yet didn't know how to say it. In the Summer of 2020, I accidentally ordered two identical grey mimetic building blocks cats, which gave me the image of ‘I meet myself’. That’s how the story began, ‘One Summer’s day, underneath a pine tree, the cat walking on Kilburn High Road meets itself who came from Dongfeng Road ’.

    I grew up in a small town in the North East of China (the Dongfeng Town in Dongfeng City, the main road of which is Dongfeng Road) where winter days were long. I had never thought about what my hometown meant to me. Living, walking in Dongfeng was as natural as breathing. It has become clearer to me, growing up, that I must work hard in order to live a different life, in other words, to leave my hometown. So I moved further and further away. I thought, after all, I always had the chance to come back home and see my family, until the pandemic happened. And then, I told myself that the pandemic would be over soon, and I would have the chance to travel back home. Now, three years later, still thousands of miles away from my hometown and my family, memories start to form a miniature version of my hometown in London, the Walking Cats version. 

    In where I lived, Kilburn High Road, I sensed a similar atmosphere as Dongfeng Road back home with its straight road, busy shops and busy crowds, but I found myself floating in the air. I couldn’t find my roots. I couldn’t feel the gravity walking on the street. I didn’t feel I belonged here. I was desperate for an answer and some peace, especially before the first lockdown. In a romantic way, Walking Cats came along, hand in hand with a bright summer.

    In the last two years, I made lego cats, a collection of paper collages, drawing different pictograms for Kilburn High Road and family photos on paper cards, recollecting stories of myself growing up in a small town, revisiting poems I recited when I was a kid, working with friends with the same cultural heritage, even finally figured out my late mother’s recipe (I did it, Mom!) Under the camera’s bird’s eyes’ view, those cards and colours would be assembled into different patterns, accompanied and punctuated with the dream-like, nostalgic and playful soundscape as the story of Walking Cats evolves. Collaborating with Tingying, Yuyu, Tung and Xi, as a creative team of first-generation East Asian migrant artists, we all see a bit of ourselves, and put a bit of ourselves into this personal piece.

    I’m grateful that Walking Cats taught me the virtue of resilience and patience. The future never felt this approachable. I can hold it in my hands, I can walk a step behind. I can talk to it, laugh about it, cry at it. Anything can happen, and I am ready.

    Walking Cats (work-in-progress)

    Tue 1 and Wed 2 Nov at 7.15pm

    Zhaolin Zhou

    "Hats off to the CPT for this fine show, well researched and coming from a place of great passion... Comm­unity theatre at its most effective."

    Camden New Journal (Human Jam)