Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

SUZANNE BURLTON notices the powerful but not obnoxious odour of veracity.

accents GCSE josephine starte morgan ring set text Simon Haines Tamara Astor Tennessee Williams

ADC Theatre, 26-30th October, £8-10

Directed by Morgan Ring


Tennessee Williams’ noted GCSE set text portrays a southern American family celebrating the birthday of its patriarch. Unsurprisingly there are problems behind the facade, and it seems inevitable that it will all fall apart.

Josephine Starte does a delightful turn as Maggie, the hapless wife of the younger, alcoholic son. She chatters merrily away at first, but then an air of tragedy enters her voice and she becomes faintly hysterical without acknowledging a shift. It is a subtle performance, but also one that makes you wish she would breathe every now and then. Simon Haines gives a measured performance of Big Daddy, rising to anger and a truly affecting reaction when the Big Secret of the play is revealed to him. It was a very powerful moment.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Tamara Astor as Big Mama, however. She has a huge range, something which the rest of the cast sometimes lacked, and her physicality was just perfect for the part and very distinctive. Her devastation on discovering the family secret was exquisitely painful to behold.

Two of my noirest bêtes come up in this piece – children and accents. I hate to go on about it, but why use child actors when there are perfectly serviceable student ones? The children were awkward and comical when they shouldn’t have been. The petulant ‘You’re just jealous because you can’t have babies’ made me cringe. The accents, however, were spot on. The use of a dialogue coach paid recession-beating dividends; it makes all the difference not to have English vowels spoiling the setting.

Talking of which, the set was lovely, most notably the stunningly lit cyclorama at the back. There were some technical fails, such as doors failing to open and sound being far too loud, but this was the first night and I’m sure those will be sorted out in due course. This is a good production of a well-chosen play, and the whole team are to be congratulated.