Amateur dramatic groups have to be brave to take on the plays of American playwright Tennessee Williams.
In her role of director for the first time with Dukeries Theatre Group at the Acorn, Heather Carroll took on the classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
I remember seeing the screen version with a young Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman and have a lasting impression of humidity, unrest and conflict, so I wasn’t expecting an evening of jollity. As the play progressed, I began to realise what a clever writer Williams was.
Set in one room, the play is a finely observed story of a family with a patriarch who has been told a gross lie - that he is not dying of cancer. Although we are not aware this is a lie in the beginning, it becomes apparent.
This is not the only lie the family are dealing with and it’s these different levels of lies which become so fascinating. It’s the difference between being told a lie and living a lie and why such lies exist in the first place that pose deep philosophical questions.
I was in awe of the principle members of the cast, mainly because of the vast amount of dialogue they had to learn.
Jolene Fletcher, in only her second appearance, played Maggie (the Elizabeth Taylor role) with a believable American accent and a pair of nylons my mother’s generation would have fought for. Richard Hinchliffe was Brick, Big Daddy’s youngest son and Maggie’s husband, the alcoholic with a past as a sports star and who is in deep mourning for the loss of his close friend Skipper.
These two were superb in these roles. For Richard it was a real departure from his normally comical roles and I saw a previously unrevealed side.
David Denwood was the larger-than-life Big Daddy (played by Burl Ives in the film) with a stage presence exactly right for the part. His portrayal of concern, grief and joy was admirable and the sinister way his character regarded his wife, distinctly creepy.
Angela Williams was his wife Big Mamma, a role which allowed us to see more of her acting. She made you like her and be angry at the way she was being duped.
Steve Rowan and Jessica Chambers were Gooper and Mae, Big Daddy’s oldest son and his wife. Jessica made a confident first appearance and Steve made you dislike and feel sorry for his character.
Ian McKeer played the grasping Rev Tooker and Andrew Barber made his debut as Doc Baugh. Supporting the cast were children who acted as a counterpoint to the tension of the play with their innocent games. My admiration for the work of Dukeries Theatre Group continues to grow.