Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Written by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Anne Somes. Canberra Repertory Society. Canberra Rep Theatre, Ellery Crescent, Acton. February 18 (preview) to March 6, 2021 at 8pm with 2pm matinees on February 27 and 28 and March 6. canberrarep.org.au.
Victoria Dixon says that when she read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, she found her character, Maggie, to be "an incredibly difficult role".
She says it was a challenge to understand why Maggie behaved the way she did and made the choices she did in Tennessee Williams' play, first presented on Broadway in 1955.
Maggie, the "cat" of the title, who constantly uses her sexuality and whatever else she can, trying every technique and ploy to try to get her husband into bed and appeal to her father-in-law.
"'Has she no pride?" was my initial impression."
But working with director Anne Somes and the cast of Canberra Repertory Society's upcoming production, she's come a greater realisation of Maggie and her motivations.
"I had to admire her incredibile vulnerability and also her strength," she says.
As well as trying to deal with a difficult situation - hence the title - Maggie also resembles a feline in her stealth and catty tongue.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is set on a steamy night in the Pollitt family's plantation house when several long-simmering issues are boiling over.
Maggie, who grew up in poverty, married former football hero Brick (Teig Sadhana), who came from a wealthy southern family.
But their marriage has been under strain for some time: they are not sleeping with each other and the heavy-drinking Brick is still trying to cope with the death of his best friend, Skipper.
Sadhana says, "Brick is dealing with a lot of trauma by refusing to deal with it."
One of the key themes of the whole play, he says, is truth: the consequences both of recognising and dealing with it and of refusing it.
The Pollitt family has gathered to celebrate the birthday of Big Daddy (Michael Sparks) but there are secrets being kept and ulterior motives at work.
Big Daddy and his wife Big Mama (Liz St Clair Long) haven't been told he is dying of cancer.
The patriarch, believing he has a clean bill of health, wants Brick, his favourite son, to provide him with an heir and take over the plantation.
Meanwhile, the other Pollitt son, Gooper (Ryan Erlandsen), a lawyer who has always lived in Brick's shadow, and his wife Mae (Lainie Hart) are eager to press their claim to the valuable estate. However, Brick, wallowing in his own pain and misery, appears to be indifferent to all this, much to Maggie's consternation.
Somes says that as the play unfold, its themes - including, mendacity, deception and greed - are revealed through the words and actions of its characters.
"Act Three is like a chess game ," she says, as the characters think strategically and do their best to achieve victory.
Somes says that in its complexity and depth, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has "so much for a director to have to bring together and weave into a tapestry", from the characters to the set and the soundscape devised to evoke of a hot night in the South.
The play reveals a lot about the characters but leaves plenty for the audience to interpret, too, such as the nature of the relationship between Maggie, Brick and Skipper, and where things will end up for the characters after the play concludes.
Somes says those involved in the production have embarked on their own search and are presenting it "so people can make up their own minds".
It's this richness that has meant Cat a Hot Tin Roof endures.