In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina narrowly missed New Orleans. The resulting storms breached rotting levees and emptied neighbouring lake Pontchartrain into the city. Marooned by floodwater that swamped over 80% of their homes, the inhabitants had to wait a week without food or clean water before their own government came to their aid. Katrina uses survivor testimonies and the rich cultural tradition of New Orleans to tell the story of the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. Shedding light on some of the more extraordinary and under-reported aspects of the tragedy, the play portrays an odyssey through a drowned space and a series of encounters with individuals displaced and abandoned within their own city. The plot follows from the death of Virgil, a decadent old New Orleanian, who has been killed by Hurricane Katrina. Trapped by the rising floodwater his partner Beatrice determines to take his body to safety at City Hall. During her journey she encounters a number of other survivors and hears their tales. A Jericho House production, Katrina premiered at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, on 1 September 2009.
Jonathan Holmes is the director and founder of Jericho House. In 2007 he wrote and directed the testimony play Fallujah. In 2008 with The Sixteen he revived Henze and Bond's opera Orpheus Behind the Wire at the South Bank Centre, and in 2009 his testimony play Katrina, about New Orleans and produced in association with the Young Vic, sold out for a month in a warehouse in Southwark. He has a PhD from The Shakespeare Institute and for six years he taught Drama and English at Royal Holloway, University of London.