Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Wed 20th – Sat 23rd February 2013

reviews

Daisy Thomson

at 10:00 on 21st Feb 2013

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'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' is not an easy play to pull off. The sustained Deep South accents, the weighty number of emotive monologues compared to dramatic action and the restrictive setting of a bedroom are all potential recipes for disaster. DEM Productions, however, have managed to get it just right.

The production is raw and powerful, the tone ranging from quietly philosophical to raging arguments and slamming doors. The degradation of the relationships is clear for all to see, and often appears frustratingly inevitable.

The brilliance of Tennessee Williams’ script is enhanced by the actors’ skill, whose accents are almost flawless throughout. Lines such as “I’m Maggie, Maggie the Cat” and “you disgust me” are repeated often without becoming boring or weighty, whilst the distressing emphasis on the vain hope that Big Daddy’s cancer is no more than a “spastic colon” is highly effective.

The set is simple but works well; the looming bed is an ironic reminder of the non-existent sex lives of the characters, whilst the artfully scattered stockings, fur shrugs and velvet slips transport the audience straight into the lives of the wealthy in the 1950s. Although the multiple doors are sometimes confusing – characters appear from one of four exits with little explanation – the adjoining en suite and balcony are cleverly designed and allow for some creative blocking.

Ella Waldman is breathtaking as the long suffering protagonist Maggie. Her monologues are poignantly honest, and although she sashays confidently around the stage in a range of revealing outfits she also allows the character’s vulnerability to show through. Her performance is faultless, and she succeeds in swaying the audience’s opinion of her character from irritation and mistrust in the opening scenes to pity, respect even, by the climax of the play.

Ed Price, who plays Maggie’s alcoholic and crippled husband Brick, puts in an equally heartfelt performance. Although his presence is over shadowed by that of his wife in the first act, during his “private” conversation with Big Daddy he is outstanding. He brings himself from raging anger to the verge of tears apparently effortlessly, and is manages to create just enough ambiguity around his relationship with his old school friend Skipper, whose ghost is present throughout the play.

Some of the supporting characters, however, are less complex, and sometimes exaggerated to the point of farce. Big Mama, played by Daisy Buzzoni, is well portrayed as an old-fashioned former Southern Belle attempting to clutch at the last straws of a disintegrating family. Her bustling and nagging persona did manage to create an image of a much older, much larger matriarch, yet her comic expressions at times detracted from the seriousness of the action around her. Similarly, Gooper and his wife Mae, although wonderfully heartless yet composed in their deception of Big Daddy, slightly lack a human third dimension or vulnerability. They appear to feel no guilt in their actions.

Perhaps the most interesting performance is that of Nick Davies as Big Daddy, the dying patriarch who is in self denial about his terminal cancer. As the owner of the huge estate which is the setting of the play he creates an aura of power yet fear at his fate. He is emotive, multi-dimensional and absolutely professional in his part.

I enjoyed the comedy, and the light-hearted scenes with the children were key in breaking up the otherwise heavy script. However, the noise level in some of the argument scenes becomes overwhelming in places; Big Daddy and Brick shout across the stage for several minutes at a time.

Overall, the actors are brilliantly cast, and the audience is left moved and amazed by their performance.' A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' is unmissable, and deserves a full house for the remainder of the week.

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