Brisbane review - The Cat’s Meow: a slick and juicy effort
By Lilian Harrington
The Cat’s Meow
By Steven Peros
Directed by Roslyn Johnson
Villanova Players (V .P)
Ron Hurley Theatre 28 Tallowwood St Seven Hills
Season: November 24 - December 3
Bookings: Try booking.com or call: 0423 920 832
The Cat’s Meow would be a challenge to stage so Villanova Players must be congratulated for their slick and juicy effort. they successfully made tricky scene changes, captured the essence of the era and coached a large cast. American playwright, Steven Peros, was inspired by the true events surrounding a mysterious Hollywood death that occurred in 1924. Hollywood movie mogul Thomas Ince was killed and the case was never fully investigated. It was kept from the press. His body was cremated hurriedly preventing a thorough investigation.
In the 1920’s, several famous and infamous celebrities caught public attention; this era saw the growth of jazz, and the movie industry as well as some corrupt business practices and deception amongst the wealthy, powerful and ambitious. News magnate William Randolph Hearst helped promote the film industry, and indulge himself finding roles for his beautiful young starlet.
Steven Peros introduces his characters and events through the eyes of English “writer”, Elinor Glyn (Helen Ekundayo). She interacts with the audience through the 4th wall speaking in a conversational way. In the first Act we learn from her about the celebrities, their relationships and ambitious plans of some of the guests as well as their reasons for going on this wickedly, wild, weekend celebrity cruise to celebrate the birthday of movie mogul Tom Ince (Nicholas Sayer), aboard William Randolph Hearst’s (Brent Schon) luxurious yacht. Tom is there with the intention of improving his fortunes by partnering with W R Hearst and casting Marion Davies (Jermia Turner) a talented young actress , jealously guarded by Hearst. In Act 1 there’s a flow of activity at times uneven, and viewers could be forgiven if they are left wondering where the play is heading, however, in Act 2 the action is more focused and the intent is clearer.
Hearst commits a crime of passion; He kills Tom in a mistaken jealous rage; he overhears part of a conversation between Tom and Marion, and misunderstands the situation. He is besotted with Marion and he guards her jealously. Hearst (Brent Schon) displays his intentions and we see his dark and devious side as he endeavours to cover up the shooting; newspaper reporter Louella Parsons well- played by ( Kristina Redwood ), working for Hearst, seals a deal with him after she’s witnessed the shooting to firm up her future job prospects; Charlie Chaplin (Adam Goodall) who has been flirting with Marion , was paid to be silent and Marion Davies finds she has little choice but to remain silent. These scenes helped build key character moments in Act 2 and deepened the atmosphere and intention. Actors captured the style of the 1920’s and complimented it with their stylish costumes ( costumes Lia Surrentino ) and short dance sequences e.g. the Charleston (choreographer Jaide Camileri). However, the wigs and head gear worn on stage should be checked prior to being worn on stage.
Congratulations to set designer (Ian Johnson) who designed the yacht. . Impressively designed with an upper deck where the Captain, or Crew , steered it ; a lower level multi- purpose deck saw the main action and hidden portholes, where formal dining tables and cabin bedrooms were pulled out by the USS Oneida Crew, all working in tandem as required ; these settings were formal and innovative. Perhaps more lighting on some side stage and stairs areas would have assisted viewers. Complementing the set construction Jason Nash planned effective for the overheads which supported the stage action. . This show provided videography and vision plenty to keep audience guessing and entertained based on true events in America in the 1920’s.