Friday, February 19, 2010

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brisbane Arts Theatre 31July - 4 September 2010

My audience response published at

The Brisbane Arts Theatre’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof uses Tennessee Williams’ original script to deliver a version of the play written before any alterations were made during the censorious 50s. We are first introduced to Brick as the feckless anti-hero of this very modern tragedy; a man who has retreated from life after the suicide of his best friend Skipper. Brick’s specialty is inaction and his reasons are complex. He refuses to play husband to Maggie (the eponymous Cat), instead preferring the anodyne caresses from the liquor cabinet. Only Brick’s father, Big Daddy, manages to break down the laconic Brick in the closing scenes of the play by forcefully disinterring memories from Brick’s repressed past. Directed by Alex Lanham, and running until 4 September, there is still time for culture vultures with a predilection for everything mid-century to check out this gorgeously costumed period production.

What did you like about this performance?

Fans of the American television drama Mad Men, or even those who are just mad for all things vintage, would undoubtedly get a kick out of the verisimilitude of the 50s styled costumes and stage setting. We are even allowed a cheeky peek at the tops of Maggie’s (Dominique Mutch) stockings, and her curves could easily be interpreted as those from another era. Small touches adding glamour to the night did not go unnoticed, such as recordings of American classics “Mack the Knife” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” played during interval. My only quibble would be with Maggie’s hair that looked more like a throwback to a style sported by practitioners of 90s riot grrrl think L7 and Babes in Toyland), than the smooth and voluminous look donned by Elizabeth Taylor for the Hollywood screen back in 1958.

What didn’t you like about this performance?
As a longstanding patron of Brisbane Arts Theatre who has attended a number of performances over the past decade in this most intimate of theatres, I was disappointed with this particular production for a few reasons. First, Alex Comben as Brick has considerable trouble settling into a consistent vocal register and appeared to be in constant battle with the Deep Southern dialect that has become synonymous with Williams’ plays. One wonders what kind of performance Comben could have delivered if he had dropped all attempts at foreign locution and directed his energy toward other aspects of characterisation that were lacking, such as his on-stage dynamic with Maggie. The same can be said for William Davies as Big Daddy who rapidly oscillates between his native Australian accent and the demotic rhythms of the Mississippi plantation home where the play is set. The production is running for well over a month so one would hope Davies and Comben smooth out these inconsistencies or drop the American accents altogether.

Was there anything remarkable about your experience?
One of the more experienced actors, Meredith Sinclair playing Mae, shines with strong delivery in a consistent American style that is no doubt aided by her previous role as Maggie back in the 1998 BAT production of Cat.

Why should we go and see this show?

To witness a challenging examination of masculinity that helps us measure and contemplate the widespread uncertainties surrounding gender that we experience today.

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