site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Corn Exchange - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

13th to 15th October 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Veering towards melodrama

Tennessee Williams' powerful Pulitzer Prize winning play is a classic, perhaps best remembered by the film starring Liz Taylor and Paul Newman. It is set in the steaming Deep South of the Mississippi Delta on Big Daddy's 28,000 acres plantation beautifully recreated by Kit Surrey's evocative set of grey louvered doors, gauze covered panels and balconies leading into infinity.

The family have gathered together to celebrate the 65th birthday of Big Daddy, who is suffering from terminal stomach cancer but believes he has nothing worse than a spastic colon. Christopher Robbie's performance was brutish; a bullying, menacing patriarch, driven by greed and the need to control and rule his family. His long-suffering wife (Kate Dove) fusses and strives to create an era of normality in what is obviously a totally dysfunctional family.

At stake is who will inherit the family's $10 million fortune? Big Daddy wants his money to go to his son Brick, the alcoholic ex-footballer whose marriage is crumbling and is desperate to come to terms with his suppressed homosexuality. A sensitively portrayed performance by Darren Strange, constantly hobbling between the cocktail cabinet and his chair always hoping to make the 'click' in his head that provides peace and oblivion.

His wife, the 'Cat' of the title is still in love with him, and is hoping that she can revive the marriage and have the child she so craves.

Helena Lyons is certainly a fiery Maggie, full of passion and aggression but her gabbling accent made it, at times, difficult to understand her and somehow I was not convinced that this was a feline 'on heat'.

There is sterling support from Anthony Washington as Gooper, the mercenary elder brother and Janet Greaves as Mae, his highly-fertile, pregnant wife whose 'no-neck monsters' of children remains a constant taunt to the childless Maggie. They are ruthlessly trying to convince Big Daddy that they should inherit the estate.

This a play about "mendacity", about "lies and lying" and ends in the painful, twisted roar of the death of Big Daddy.

Director Colin Blumenau's pedestrian production verges on the melodramatic but it is encouraging that The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, has the commitment to tour such classics to regional theatres.