To add to the pressure, Tamara Harvey, who replaced Hands as Artistic Director last June, has come in at a time of “restructuring”, and with the beleaguered local council threatening to severely cut its significant annual funding. So, would Harvey rip up Hands’s rulebook, or would she stick to the tried-and-tested blueprint he left behind?
The early signs are that it’s a bit of both, with her inaugural season opening with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which will be followed by a regional premiere of April de Angelis’s recent West End hit Jumpy andAnthony Burgess’s adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, complete with Welsh language poetry from Twm Morys. So, something old, something new and something borrowed. Something blue? Well, there’s always the traditional end-of-year panto, which Harvey would do well to keep.
So far, then, so good – director Robert Hastie has delivered up a pleasingly subtle and graceful production of the Tennessee Williamsclassic, with, at its heart, one truly exceptional performance. Janet Bird’s set, too, does a fine job of bringing a Fifties Southern cotton plantation estate – sun-scorched walls, expansive skies and all – to a cold and wet corner of Wales.
Williams’s tale of sex, lies and cotton fields can easily be swamped by the wounded anti-hero Brick or the booming, salty Big Daddy, but this was one hot tin roof absolutely dominated by its cat. Catrin Stewart is a superb, captivating Maggie, stealing scenes even in which she doesn’t speak. It’s a delightfully nuanced performance, with real depth, that manages to capture “Maggie the Cat’s” frustration, heartbreak, lust, scheming, bitterness, desperation and wit – often within a single sentence.
While the ensemble are more than solid, it’s Stewart who manages to make Williams’s often complex – and too often melodramatic – dialogue pulsate with life. Gareth David-Lloyd as the drunken, repressed Brick deserves plaudits for playing a subdued, impenetrable foil to the effervescent Maggie, while Andrew Langtree and Catrin Aaron bring real weight to the genteel Southern back-stabbing in-laws.
“There’s life in this girl” says Big Daddy, of his daughter-in-law Maggie. Here, that’s something of an understatement.
Until March 5. Tickets: 01352 701521; theatrclwyd.com. Then at New Theatre Cardiff (March 8-12), and Swansea Grand Theatre (March 15-19)