Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

May 17, 2019 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★☆☆    Solid

Studio: Wed 15 – Sat 18 May 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

Leitheatre give a meaty and satisfyingly verbal account of Tennessee Williams’ great drama, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, at the Studio of the Festival Theatre, running through to Saturday.

It’s a production which is not without its drawbacks, notably a sense of hesitancy at times, but director Mike Patton has let his main cast get in amongst their characters, and they do so with a more than passable Southern drawl.

Big Mama with Brick - Maggie the Cat looks on

Phyllis Ross, Kevin Rowe and Nicole Nadler. Pic: Marion Donohoe

Set on a Mississippi cotton plantation in 1955, on one level the play is pure soap opera fare – a rich family in crisis at the point of succession, with the patriarch all but dead, a beloved son incapable through drink and his older brother not loved enough to succeed.

Of course this is much more than titillation. The failings and squabbles of the Pollitt family are a backdrop to Williams’ examination – without coming to any real decisions – of mendacity and sexuality, desire and deceit, love and death.

And while the play won the Pulitzer prize, the judges concerns over its structure are understandable, with its two long, dominating scenes that are essentially monologues aimed towards the younger and preferred son Brick, once a great football and now a serious alcoholic.

First by his wife, Maggie, the cat on the hot tin roof of the title, desperate because of his failure to love her – physically and mentally – and the second from the patriarch, the cancer-ridden Big Daddy, who has been lied to by the family and now believes that he doesn’t have cancer after all.

increasingly coherent

But it is these two scenes, duologues that are monologues with increasingly coherent interjections from Brick (despite his increasing intoxication) – which give the play weight and heft that it has.

The birthday party.

Amber Thomson, Anna Tribout,Euan Kennedy, Debra May, Martin Dick, David Reynolds, Pat Hymers, Bea Tena-Hutchinson, Hamish Hunter, Phyllis Ross, Kevin Rowe and Nicole Nadler. Pic: Marion Donohoe

And boy, do Nicole Nadler as Maggie, Kevin Rowe as Brick and Hamish Hunter as Big Daddy, give their characters a sense of life and resentment.

All three give hugely watchable performances. Nicole Nadler is particularly strong in her long, opening speech, when Maggie returns after dinner to change her dress while the incapacitated Brick is taking a shower.

Nadler finds the ebb and flow of it all beautifully so it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. She nurtures a sense of hope within her character, laying her out as truthful and not spiteful, for all her social climbing.

For all that Nadler has an open physical presence on stage, coming right up to its front edge at times, Kevin Rowe’s Brick is closed, skulking around the edges. Rowe never misses a beat, however. His monosyllabic answers dropped precisely into Maggie’s tumbling words.

imposing

Hamish Hunter’s Big Daddy is properly imposing. And he has a command of his lines that demands attention. Even before he and Brick take to the stage alone, and the lies begin to unravel, Hunter lifts the production every time he appears on stage.

Big Daddy and Big Mama

Hamish Hunter and Phyllis Ross. Pic: Marion Donohoe

He has a humanity about him too. This is no despot, withering on his throne. He has a real sense of understanding to him – even if there is a serious spark of sexual attraction between Big Daddy and Maggie.

In terms of its staging, Derek Blackwood’s straightforward set and Allison Naismith and Maggie King’s functional costumes all work well. There is no attempt here to do anything fancy, but simply to let the words do their work.

Similarly, the supporting cast ensure that the focus remains on Big Daddy. Phyllis Ross as his wife, Big Mama, needs to come forward a bit more, however. Her delivery can become drowned in the set, meaning that her lines are not always clear.

strong and functional

Pat Hymers as the lawyer older brother, Gooper, and Debra May as his pushy wife Mae both create ineffectual characters, as if they were being seen through Big Daddy’s eyes. The trio of youngsters, Bea Tena-Hutchinson, Anna Tribout and Euan Kennedy playing their brattish children all run around shouting and shooting pistols with suitable effect.

Martin Dick as Dr Bough and Davide Reynolds as Rev Tooker both do all they need to serve the script with strong and functional performances from which Mike Paton makes no attempt divine any deeper meaning.

A thoroughly reputable production which succeeds in showing what the fuss is about with the play, without trying to do anything adventurous or clever with it. Or, indeed, to find any parallels with contemporary American politics.

Running time two hours and 40 minutes (including one interval)
The Studio, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL
Wed 15 May to Sat 18 May 2019.
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Gooper's kids with their guns

Euan Kennedy, Kevin Rowe, Nicole Nadler, Anna Tribout and Bea Tena-Hutchinson. Pic Marion Donohoe

ENDS

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  1. Phyllis Ross says:

    Thanks Thom. Point taken.

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