From Downton to the Deep South

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GOING from genteel stately home drama Downton Abbey to the torrid emotion of Tennesse Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a welcome change for actress Zoe Boyle.

Last seen on our screens as Lavinia Swire in the ITV costume behemoth, Zoe will take on the role of Maggie in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s new production, staged next month.

She said: “It’s nice to do something so different. Lavinia comes from a certain time and a certain protocol for behaviour, and she was a very sweet character, whereas Maggie is very feisty and so changeable – she goes from desperation to seduction to anger, it’s pretty exhausting being her.”

Playing a part made famous by screen legend Elizabeth Taylor is another challenge Zoe has had to deal with. She said: “When I was first offered it I did start watching the film, but I had to stop because it was so different to the play, but also because I didn’t want to end up mimicking what one actress has done, or go against it.

“Elizabeth Taylor was incredibly sexy and right for the part, I’ve never played a role where I’ve had to be so overtly sexual, but after a couple of days in rehearsal dressed in just a silk slip it becomes more natural.”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1955, and is set on an oppressively hot summer evening in the Mississippi delta, where the Pollitt family has gathered to celebrate the 65th birthday of Big Daddy, a dynamic patriarch and owner of one of the south’s biggest plantations.

The action centres around his son Brick, an ex-footballer and alcoholic, and his wife Maggie, who is desperately trying to repair their fractured marriage.

Zoe said: “She’s madly in love with him, but they’ve reached an impasse in their relationship where he won’t allow any physical contact whatsoever because of this trauma he’s experienced of a friend dying.

“So she’s trying to re-engage with him, but also get him to engage with this other family situation, where his father is dying of cancer and the issue of who’s going to inherit the 
estate.

“Maggie’s wants to reignite the spark between her and Brick, but also more practically, she wants to inherit the estate. She really runs the whole gamut of emotions because Brick is so disengaged, and she’s trying anything to get a reaction from him.”

A veteran of the RSC, this is Zoe’s first venture into Tennessee Williams’ territory. She said: “I’ve done Shakespeare and Chekov, but I’d never actually read any Tennessee Williams, or seen any of his plays, but when I started reading it I was absolutely blown away, it was the most phenomenal play.

“It just immediately grabbed me and I was just desperate to do it from that moment on. To be playing this part in this play is such an honour, because it’s one of those great parts that most actresses wants to do at some point in their career.”

Zoe’s co-star is Jamie Parker, best-known from the stage and film version of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, and currently in BBC drama Parade’s End.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is at West Yorkshire Playhouse from October 6 to 27, tickets cost £12-£27, available from www.wyp.org.uk or 0113 213 7700.