By our drama critic
Dundee Rep must have ordered the current heatwave as the ideal warm-up for its production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Tennessee Williams' tale of love, lust and mendacity shows the family jealousies and sibling rivalry that have ripped a family into shreds.
Set one summer evening on Big Daddy's Mississippi Delta plantation, the family gather for the dying patriarch's 65th birthday. There is no-on like Williams for recreating the full horror of a family that loathes each other being thrown together in a celebration.
The highly charged atmosphere builds throughout the piece as the damaged lives of the proponents are examined.
Taking centre stage is Maggie (an excellent performance by Clare Burt) the sexy, frustrated daughter-in-law, spurned by her husband Brick. Like a cat, she stalks the stage with a fifties Monroe-like beauty, her longing oozing out as she pleads for attention from her alcoholic spouse.
Towering over the family, literally and metaphorically, is Big Daddy, given a fine big performance in Gareth THomas's playing. The old man can charm when he wants, but his rage is terrifying and his verbal destruction of his wife shocking.
The one weak link in Richard Baron's production is Stewart Bowman as Brick, the handsome sports star who has turned to booze. Mr Bowman quite simply seems miscast, he has the look and behaviour of angst-ridden 90s man. There is no hint of him once having been the golden boy who was worshipped by his parents and adored by his wife. He does not simmer before exploding into rage, there is no sense of him being the time-bomb at the party.
Lesley Mackie and Ian Stuart Robertson turn in two well-judged performances as Mae, the fecund daughter-in-law and the sneaky Gooper, the oh-so-perfect son. Local children take on the roles of their off-spring, realistically recreating little monsters.
The first act has not yet found its pace, but it is a work that grips and looks good amidst Gregory Smith's expansive set.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof runs until May 31.
In a production that blows the recent version at the Citizens Theatre cleanly off the stage, director Richard Baron captures both the humour and the twisted hatred that drives this magnificent study of lives warped by deceit. The characterizations are human enough for us to laugh in recognition - and the mob of "no-neck "monster children who charge across the stage are splendidly nauseating - but the social graces barely conceal the spiteful and ungenerous self-interest that truly motivate this family. Using the most linguistically explicit version of the script, one that shifts the emphasis away from Brick's repressed homosexuality toward a more general commentary on false relationships, Baron draws a clutch of excellent performances.
As Maggie, the cat, Clare Burt is driven more by fierce, articulate intelligence than raw sexuality, stating her case as lucidly as anyone on the stage. There's little of the former all-American sportsman in Stuart Bowman's portrayal of Brick, but he brings a disturbing stillness and profound anger to the part.
Gareth Thomas, as belligerent Big Daddy, and Janet Michael, as a twittering but proud Big Mamma, are on better form than I have ever seen them, helping create a compelling, first-rate production that does the theatre proud.
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Last updated on 17th of January 1998.