The iconic play, which gained an even larger audience with the big screen adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman in 1958, focuses on the dysfunctional wealthy Pollitt family, plantation owners in America’s Deep South.
And the Player’s production roars into life in the opening half with a tour-de-force from Rebecca Carney as Maggie, the tormented and rejected wife of Brick, a former football player battling his own demons of alcoholism and repressed homosexuality.
Williams famously hated the MGM 1958 film because it glossed over Brick’s perceived homosexuality, but there was no danger of that in the Players’ production as it soon becomes very clear the reason behind the tensions of the play’s two main protagonists.
Rebecca is superb as the manic Maggie, capturing her Deep South drawl perfectly as she strides around the stage in a high-energy performance of sexual and familial frustration.
Her erstwhile love, Brick, is played with equal aplomb in a perfect under-stated manner by Ryan Bradley, who captures his character’s demons and self-loathing perfectly.
It should be said at this point that the Players’ production saw two original cast members drop out due to illness, only for their replacements to follow suit.
That meant director Ben Ventress had to step into the very large shoes of the patriarch of the play, Big Daddy, another frustrated man, also trapped in a loveless marriage, and facing his own serious health problems.
Ben again pulls off the Deep South accent with aplomb, and actually manages to make quite an unlikeable character, well likeable.
Regular Christine West plays Big Mamma, a woman seemingly carrying the weight of her family’s problems on her shoulders.
The second half of the play features more of the supporting cast, headed by other regulars Helena Rose as the baby-producing foil to the childless Maggie, and Martyn Frost as Gooper, the uptight brother of Brick.
Nicholas Peat as the Reverend Tooker, and Nathaniel McCartney as Doc Baugh round up an impressive cast.
One criticism is that the second half seems to go on a little, in comparison to the rapid-fire dialogue between Maggie and Brick at the start of the play.
That said, the production is superb, and I’m sure Mr Williams would have approved.
Ben said: “It has been a huge privilege to bring this great American classic to life with such a talented and varied cast; the combination of experienced and relatively new actors has given the production a very special dynamic and I would like to thank all of the cast and crew for their many hours of hard work.”
Sadly, due to the issues faced with cast illnesses, the Players have had to cut the number of performances for this latest production which runs until Saturday, June 18th.
Tickets and other information are available by visiting www.rossendaleplayers.org.uk or by calling Ticket Source on 03336 663366.