Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Wed 26th – Sat 29th November 2014

reviews

Sofya Grebenkina

at 01:35 on 27th Nov 2014

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‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is an emotionally-charged drama, taking place over one hot evening in the American South, and is an undeniable stage classic by the infamous Tennessee Williams. The production, in its attempt to bring this fragile tragedy to life, mainly hit the mark with the help of the passion of the actors, and the idiosyncratic directorial choices.

The audience is welcomed into the home of the Pollitts, where the walls are said to be so paper thin that we can see either side of them; there was no clear demarcation where the seating for the audience ends and the stage begins. This is an enticing literal interpretation, which coupled with the focus of the actors as they themselves watch the play from ‘back stage’ and their remaining in character left the audience fully engrossed with the action in Brick’s and Maggie’s bedroom. The bedroom itself was faithfully decorated in the manner of the 50s, with the oppressively heavy wooden furniture and sickly green wallpaper adding to the suffocating nature of the play.

As the play begins, the audience was greeted not with Brick and Maggie but with the servant-girl Sookey, reciting the scene directions, who subsequently appeared to commence each act. Sadly the touchingly poetic nature of Tennessee Williams’ writing is lost here, as we were initially given descriptions of what should already be painfully obvious from the set, and then this is only if we are able to hear what is uttered in a mumbling haste.

The actors gradually slipped into their roles, the play gaining momentum and the actors revealing their artistry as the play progressed. Overall it is with the entrance of Big Daddy, the patriarch of the Pollitt family, played by Ed Wheatley, when the play really seemed to fall into stride. The confidence of the actor, so necessary for this role, coupled with Ed’s powerful voice, brought vivacity into the play.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the characterization of Brick by Josh Williams. Although the episodes when Brick fights with Maggie or Big Daddy are a triumph in their evocation of audience sympathy, beyond this Brick appears close to one-dimensional. There appeared to be no smooth transition between anger and calm, and there is much confusion as to why a character constantly described as ‘cool’, would appear to be so close to rage for most of the play. As he stared down at the ground, it was difficult to engage with the character and the mind is compelled to drift elsewhere.

As for Maggie, played by Lara Harris, she stood in marvelous contrast to Amber Lister’s, Mae. Both are women of society, but were portrayed in a way which highlights the diversity of their character. Their sarcastic and biting exchanges were refreshingly humorous and brought with them a breath of fresh air into this heavy tragedy. There was however the occasional unpleasant discordance when some of the more comical characters, such as Big Mama, fell into the grotesque. The farcical nature of a stumbling, shrieking Big Mama, the characterization bordering on the vulgar, seemed alien to the serious tone of the play. Our further encounters with her in the play however, thankfully left us with a more sympathetic view of her character, as Olivia Manning managed to bring her into the realm of realism.

This being said, the actors worked well as an ensemble, commendably supporting each other in performing a difficult play, with a complex range of emotions. The live music which was played throughout most of the production worked to a great advantage; it was an integral part in completing the atmosphere and setting the tone. It was in moments when music and actors worked together in harmonious synthesis, when the production successfully transported us into the world of an unhappy and fractured family.

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