Perhaps I was disadvantaged in watching this production by having never seen Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, on which Hot Cat is based. But I personally believe that a good adaptation should be able to hold itself up on its own and, unfortunately, this one doesn’t.
Hot Cat is a product of Los Angeles-based Theatre Movement Bazaar and combines physical theatre, music and dialogue to create a very potent atmosphere in its American Deep South setting. This is helped along by its bare but clever set, which brings a modern twist with its use of sliding furniture and hidden TV screens, whilst still keeping the feel of a dank 1950s farmhouse. However, these contrasting elements and vast range of theatrical techniques also make the play feel rather disparate, and for someone unfamiliar with the original plot it is fairly difficult to follow it amongst all the trimmings.
The plot that I could discern told of a family feud between two brothers over the rights to inheritance of the family farm . Brick – a former football star – is an alcoholic and has not had any children with his wife Maggie, who herself is determined that Brick will get his father’s inheritance over his brother Gooper, even though Brick doesn’t seem that bothered. Their childlessness and Brick’s alcoholism is a sore spot for Brick’s parents, Big Daddy and Big Mama, as is Brick’s suspiciously close relationship with his football friend Skipper. At Big Daddy’s birthday party, these causes for unrest all come to a head as the family members fight for their interests and try to fix broken relationships.
Don’t be tricked, as I was, by their zany, upbeat singing on the Mile. The song they sing as they flyer is not even included in their play, and my expectations of a fun and buoyant performance were not met. This false advertising may have added to my unsavoury reaction to the mellow feel.
Hot Cat touches on serious themes of hidden homosexuality, fatal illness and alcoholism, but it really does just touch on them, as none of them were given enough space to develop as I would have liked. Dialogue is replaced by choreography and there are no actual ‘scenes’ as such, which almost makes it feel as though the play does not believe in what it is saying and so has to fluff out the words with ambiguous movement. Hot Cat is very atmospheric and is an impressive study in physical theatre, but like its name it feels reduced and diluted from its original source.
Hot Cat is at the Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.