A SUPERB rendition of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1955 play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, runs at the New Theatre, Cardiff, until Saturday night.
Robert Hastie’s haunting production tells the story of a Mississippi family torn apart by greed, heartbreak and denial. Taking place over the course of one evening, the play sees a family gather in a mansion to celebrate the 65th birthday of their patriarch, Big Daddy (Desmond Barrit). His son Brick (Gareth David-Lloyd) and Maggie (Catrin Stewart) are a couple dealing with the breakdown of their marriage, while Big Daddy yearns to be a young bachelor.
The play is a work of genius. The brilliance of the way it portrays people dealing with tragic events lies in its combination of humour with pain. It is easy for the audience to connect with the characters because they are relatable. Maggie may not be perfect but her loyalty and strength make her likeable. Though she was seen as a weak and needy character at the beginning, it soon became clear that she was strong enough to support Brick’s family during a difficult time.
The way things unfold is fascinating because the scale of the tragedies which are revealed throughout the play escalates. It starts off vaguely civil between most people in the house but slowly and expertly Williams sets his characters at each other’s throats. The atmosphere in the house soon becomes claustrophobic and is worsened by the fact that the children are running around screaming like “no-neck monsters”.
The cast managed to capture the true essence of Williams’ masterpiece. There were a couple of stand-out performances on the opening night, with Catrin Stewart’s captivating performance setting a high standard for the rest of the play. She gripped the audience with her portrayal of a frustrated and lonely wife.
Desmond Barrit portrayed Big Daddy in style, displaying a thirst for life and empathy towards his son. He managed to add comedic effect to the play and had the audience in stitches at times, but he was also able to capture the hardness and authority of the character. Though Brick came across as a cowardly man, Gareth David- Lloyd, who is best known for his stint on BBC Three’s Torchwood, managed to show the emotions of a broken man effectively.
Whether you are already familiar with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or not, there is plenty to enjoy in this revival.
- Tickets are available from the New Theatre box office.