Adelaide Rep’s version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a delight. Director Barry Hill has delivered up a gratifyingly insinuating and refined production of the Tennessee Williams classic with, at its hub, two truly exceptional performances from Anita Pipprell (Maggie “the Cat”) and from Russell Starke (Big Daddy).
Hill’s set, moreover, admirably brings a fifties Mississippi plantation – sun-touched walls, chaise lounge, hints of opulence, and touches of period – to a cold, bleak and wet Adelaide. In addition, Aubade’s costumes including silk night attire and safari suits add much to the tone and feel of being in Dixie.
Brick (Joshua Coldwell), an alcoholic ex-pro football player, has broken his leg and is dependent on a crutch. He drinks and broods his days away and resist the affection of his wife, Maggie. Together, they’re visiting his family's estate, in order to celebrate Big Daddy’s 65th birthday. Bricks reunion with his father who is dying of cancer, brings to the fore a multitude of reminiscences and disclosures for both of them.
Meanwhile, Big Mama (Jude Brennan) is fussing and flustered, while Maggie is certain that Brick’s brother Gooper (Alan Fitzpatrick) and his wife Mae (Nicole Rutty) are trying to get Brick disinherited.
The tale of sex, lies and death can easily be dragged down by the despondent anti-hero Brick, or the bombastic Big Daddy, but Hill controls the situation and constructively allows the Cat to have a huge presence throughout. Pipprell superbly takes advantage, and captivates the audience from the start and never lets go. So much so, that her authority is even felt in scene in which doesn’t even appear. It’s a charmingly nuanced execution, with genuine profundity, that magnificently captures “Maggie the Cat’s” dissatisfaction, misfortune, hunger, acrimony, anguish and humour – often with a mere glance or a finely delivered judgment.
The entire ensemble is capable, but it’s Pipprell and Starke – his brusque portrayal restrains the melodrama and prevents his character from becoming a caricature – who both mange to make this multifaceted play, and its often convoluted discourse, teem with life. Joshua Coldwell, also deserves plaudits, for playing the dejected and drunken Brick, with a subdued subtly, that allows the other actors to bounce off him with vivacious animation.
Overall, this fine production is funny, poignant, and thought-provoking, and the director et al delivers a beautifully told story that adds another entertaining chapter in this plays history.
Adelaide Repertory Theatre presents
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Barry Hill
Venue: The Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: June 23 – July 2, 2016
Tickets: $22 | $17
Bookings: adelaiderep.com | 8212 5777