Review: Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Diss Corn Hall
PUBLISHED: 08:54 11 April 2019
Open Space’s fearless exploration of classic theatre had them tackling Tennessee William’s best known, and reportedly his favourite, play - a compelling, if relentlessly grim, examination of a family in crisis.
It is now perhaps best known through the prism of the heavily censored film adaptation, so it was quite a surprise to feel the full force of Williams’ rewrite from the 1970s, presenting an unexpurgated expose of homophobia, prejudice and greed.
The play opens with one of William’s signature monologues which Cathy Edwards-Gill delivered with remarkable confidence as Maggie talked at her husband Brick, nicely underplayed by Darren France.
He can do little more than nod or grunt in the face of the tsunami of words hurled at him, so that it is only later, when his own demons are revealed, that we see how good France’s restrained performance is.
He certainly holds his own against foul-mouthed, misanthrope Big Daddy, brilliantly played by Tim Hall, who seems to get better every time I see him. An actor of great versatility (he was just as good as an introverted English schoolmaster in last year’s Browning Version) he managed to make the bombastic Big Daddy oddly sympathetic. Only Big Mama feels anything more than that, notwithstanding the clear revulsion he feels for her. Yves Green is a little svelte to be playing his rotund spouse, but she certainly captured the spirit of this poor, deluded character with a performance that marks a welcome return to the stage for one of the company’s key members.
Not content with cancer, alcoholism, sexual politics and loveless marriages, Tennessee Williams throws yet more conflict into cauldron as the other brother and his venal wife try to snatch away Big Daddy’s fortune.
Roy Goodwin and Annie McClaranon did their best to breathe life into this awful, distracting couple, as did Bob Good with the Reverend Tooker, but we teetered close to caricature in their scenes.
Had director David Green been tempted to make a few judicious snips here and there, it might have made for a tighter, more focused production, but this is not a company that fiddles about with the texts they take on, and you have to admire them for that.
• Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will also be performed at Laxfield Village Hall on April 12; Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft on April 13; Beccles Public Hall on April 19; Bungay Fisher Theatre on April 20; Hoxne Village Hall on April 26; and The Cut, Halesworth on April 27.