‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ by Tennessee Williams was one of my set texts for English A-level. Knowing that Theatr Clwyd’s production would be at the New Theatre in Cardiff drew me in. The opportunity to see how a text, so well written, would be brought to the stage.Guest Director, Robert Hastie, has successfully created all the elements which remain with me: the claustrophobia; the unbearable heat of the Mississippi Delta – compounding on Brick and Maggie’s relationship.
Janet Bird’s set design enhanced the text, the prominence of the bed accentuating the most obvious of Maggie’s motives, to be child-bearing.
Catrin Stewart is wonderful as the Cat, taking on what feels like a 20 minute monologue and creating a form of engagement, despite Brick’s disengagement. Maggie is created not only as a woman with no self-edit, but her strength is established as personable. Catrin Stewart creates all the hinges of Maggie’s behaviour, realising the extremes of her personality. Successfully enabling her response to Brick and Skipper’s relationship to unfold.
What on paper seems a pretty easy performance, Gareth David-Lloyd as Brick provides the partnership to each character within in the play. Allowing the themes, of mendacity and homosexuality, to be brought to the fore. Gareth David-Lloyd ensured the silence and provocation of the character was fully exploited. Successful as moody and brooding, the performance isn’t the brutish Brick I recall, but more sympathetic (yet disengaged) to Maggie’s predicament.
It was the crux of Desmond Barritt which cemented the performance and depth of the play. Big Daddy as the patriarch of the family, present before appearance. With the focus for the evening established- his birthday celebration- the focus of the compounding mendacity was felt all the more through his reaction. Desmond Barritt is convincing and steadfast in the performance. The performance appreciated the breadth of response to overcoming illness, to be faced with a prognosis of stomach cancer. His relationships are developed with skill, allowing the themes to unfold and become exposed. More than in the text, Big Daddy appeared to share relationships rather than owning the family. The performance allowed the strength of the script to be exposed, ensuring empathy, sympathy and resistance to be developed.
For me, it is the seeming uneventfulness of the play which surrounded my expectation. There is no doubting the strength of the performances and the production, but Cat on a Hot Tin Roof always sat with me as containing themes which I hope we are now beyond. Whilst this is therefore a brave and strong choice for Tamara Harvey as the new Artistic Director for Theatr Clywd, I left with expectations of the play met.
Theatr Clywd’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is at the New Theatre, Cardiff from March 8th to 12th and Grand Theatre, Swansea from March 15th to 19th.