Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Mike Paton
Just shy of 75 years ago Leitheatre would emerge in humble beginnings, finding its namesake in the early seventies. A group banded together with two key concepts to their community – to adore dramatics and reflect on their roots in Leith. After covering a variety of authors and playwrights, the dramatic group have taken perhaps Tennessee Williams’ beloved, if at least most well-known, production on for their 2019 repertoire. Join Leitheatre in the humid plantains in America’s South for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
There are two things we dread more than others, death and the truth. How fortunate that both reside in the core elements of Williams’ play. Communicating the opposition to facing these aspects of life is difficult, easy to trivialise but Leitheatre have managed to maintain a desirable dignity.
Tangled amidst their own strands of deceit, the Pollitt family seem to struggle to be honest with one another. Celebrating the landmark 65th birthday of Big Daddy, the family conceal his health struggles from the patriarch and his wife, Big Mamma. The William’s play looks at a plethora of life’s difficulties regarding sexual desires, mendacity and repression.
None so repressed than that of fierce Maggie, wife to Brick and daughter-in-law to Big Daddy. She’s striking, physically engaging (and knows it) but can’t seem to regain the lost intimacy with her husband. Nicole Nadler has perhaps the troublesome task this evening, with Maggie receiving a heft of the productions lines. She performs well, her feline curls and fluid motions represent the character but lack the punch when Maggie is pushed too far.
Big Daddy Pollitt, a character whose reverence is recognised in theatre. His offstage presence is felt through the first third of the play – requiring an imposing performance to match expectations. Rising to these measures is Hamish Hunter, who from the moment his cigar-chomping Big Daddy strides into the room – there is no question to who controls the plantation.
Through no fault of Leitheatre, ensure a bathroom stop before the second half. Ideally bring a snack for the rest of Williams’ play, which is a trek. It tackles a vast array of family disputes, unearthing as it solves. We receive answers to questions, some minor resolutions and at the centre a poignant interaction from Brick and Big Daddy.
Here, Kevin Rowe is able to show his performance capabilities, working off one another to draw out the best in each other. Teetering on a subtle edge regarding Brick’s relationship with male companion Skipper, Rowe handles the exchange with tact, respect and a needed connection with the audience. The tenderness communicated by Hunter offers the attachment to Big Daddy the audience requires; it pushes the character from potential explosive antagonist to understandably (if crass) human.
A commendable effort is put into the visual nature of this production, not solely relying on the performance aspect. Giving dimension to the piece is Stephen Kajducki’s sound and lighting design. Fireworks, unexpected but welcomed bring the minor touches which lift the amateur group above others in its field.
Capturing a chunk of pathos, Leitheatre does a remarkable job in bringing one of Williams toughest plays onto the stage. In a fully commendable effort, they breathe life into rich characters, some with higher effect than others. Move quicker than a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, get yourself round to bask in the proud satisfaction of local talent.
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