Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Hot Cat is inspired by the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Theatre Movement Bazaar bring their unique brand on award-winning physical theatre to bear on this classic play about the politics and struggles of a family.
It’s party time, but is the celebration all it’s cracked up to be? Theatre Movement Bazaar take a break from re-rendering Chekhov and turn their attentions to transposing Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof into physical theatre and setting it in a new context. Still relevant today, this is a play all about family struggles, the lies we tell each other, ambition and greed. The tensions from the original are here on show, brought to the fore through TMB’s unique and always audacious approach to capturing the essence of the original, lacing it with physical motif and plenty of humorous and dramatic interplay.
We switch from ensemble movement and tableau to monologue, dialogue and even song in a production that runs for about an hour, yet delivers the story afresh and really capturing the quality of a family close in ways that are both reluctant, forced and inevitable. Here Big Daddy is a father close to the end, trapped in wretched contentment, but with a fortune to pass one to one of his sons. Who will inherit the estate? Secrets emerge, and the ending is unsatisfying – not for theatrical reasons, but because Williams presents us with the reality of family life – its power-play and darker dynamics.
Richard Algar has, as always, played with the text in ways that weave it into physical set pieces that felt more episodic in the earlier part of Hot Cat and then formed into a slowly revealing narrative as the piece progressed. Clues to the story are “revealed”, often through simply spoken phrases. This pithy quality in some of the writing sometimes creates a stiltedness in the narrative. It can feel like two steps back, one step forward. If you don’t know the play, you might have trouble picking up all the pieces of the story. That said, Algar has rendered Williams very well, and here we have all the atmosphere I remember well in the original, rendered in some playfully new ways. Big Daddy feels more corporate in the way he talks and what we wears. Our family farm feels more like a business than a many thousand acre sprawl. This gives the play a modern feel and the stakes for who inherits are very high indeed. This gives the writing a modern twist.
Vocally there are some weaknesses. Not all of the performers are equally clear and this needs a bit of attention.
The physical theatre itself is a joy to watch and really forms a foundation to the mood of the piece. Interlaced with scenes of more straight drama, the contrast adds to the feeling that this is a family tuning in and out of each other, creating tension, mistrust and distance.
The company’s earlier work had more emotional intensity, for example, in Anton’s Uncles. Here that ensemble and individual emotional power is used more sparingly. We laugh more here, especially as this fractured family move together to music. Their jerkiness and sometimes grotesque movement really captures the struggle to be the family unit whilst simply wanting to either grab (Mae) or detach and flee (Brick).
Hot Cat is a visual feast and Tina Kronis has choreographed a production that visual and verbally presents us with a new Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one for our times, resonating with many of the questions we, the post-banking-crisis generation are asking.