With this compelling production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tamara Harvey has made a terrific start to her inaugural season as artistic director at Theatr Clwyd.
Unfolding over a hot summer night with an ever-growing sense of doom, guest director Robert Hastie’s opening production drills deep into classic Tennessee Williams country where this searing psychological account of a plantation family facing toxic home truths whips up enough turbulence to rival a transatlantic storm.
On the other hand, perhaps drawing on his own acting background, Hastie keeps his direction to a pensive minimum, allowing the cast plenty of space to breathe real intimacy and compassion into a gallery of anxious souls caught in what Williams once described as ‘the thundercloud of common crisis.’
Gareth David-Lloyd smoulders with sublimated desire as the impotent Brick mourning the sexually ambiguous Skipper and drinking to repeat the alcoholic ‘click’ of oblivion whilst loathing his family’s descent into mendacity and rejecting his wife Maggie’s bedroom allure. His impeccably acted scenes with Desmond Barrit’s magnificently malignant Big Daddy are utterly gripping.
Fiercely sexual and clinging to the false hope of having a child with a husband who despises her, Catrin Stewart is superb too. Her Maggie develops into a heartrending portrait of a caged woman eaten up with longing.
Williams wanted the set to evoke a certain softness to counteract the human turmoil being explored. Janet Bird’s semi-realistic bed-sitting room design, dominated by a symbolic king-size four-poster, provides that gentle ‘click’, with faded gilt-panelled walls dissolving into a thundercloud sky beyond.