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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

A Pulitzer Prize winning classic, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is a turbulent and brutal comic drama from legendary playwright Tennessee Williams.

“But the one thing I don’t have is the charm of the defeated, my hat is still in the ring, and I am determined to win!”

Secrets and lies are as oppressive as the Mississippi heat, suffocating Maggie and everything she’s fought for. It’s Big Daddy’s birthday and the family are home for one helluva celebration. Big Daddy is dying, except he doesn’t know it. But his family does, and so begins an ugly battle for succession. Dripping in ambitious flattery Gooper and his wife Mae are poised to win – but Maggie is ready to pounce. Maggie spits, viper-tongued , fighting like a cat on a hot tin roof while Brick sinks to the bottom of a bottle – waiting haplessly for the 'click’.

A Pulitzer Prize winning classic, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is a turbulent and brutal comic drama from legendary playwright Tennessee Williams (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, THE GLASS MENAGERIE) and is directed by the Royal Exchange Theatre's Joint Artistic Director Roy Alexander Weise (THE MOUNTAINTOP).

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof ON TOUR

Our review on Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof - Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester - Wednesday 29th March 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

This Pulitzer prize winning play pricks up the ears of any theatre lover where ever and whenever it is mentioned.  Tragic, brutal, comedic and tempestuous, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof tackles sexuality, unrequited love, lies, regret, repression and death.  Arguably Tennessee Williams most notable play, the mere whisper of its name reverberates like a cat call, enticing audiences in from far and wide.  And with good reason, because the fine line of conflict between truth and illusion is timeless, universal and resonates on a uniquely personal level within us all.  The intimacy of The Royal Exchange provides no escape and beautifully echoes the inner turmoil of our main protagonist, Brick.  Cat On A Hot Tin Roof promises to be classic theatre at it’s best.

Big Daddy Pollitt is dying.  He doesn’t know it, but his family does and they have all gathered for his birthday at the family home.  What should be a celebration, filled with supportive family and love, soon turns into a distasteful scrabble for succession to the family home and plantation upon his passing.  Whilst son Gooper and wife Mae choose sycophantic flattery to grease their way into favour, daughter in law Maggie sees through their game and spits back with venom, refusing to back down from the fight that began when she married wealthy to escape her poor childhood.  But her husband Brick is indifferent, seemingly uninterested in his fathers estate, instead seeking company at the end of a bottle.  The family initially think this is down to the suicide of his good friend Skipper, but there is far more to this loss than initially meets the eye.  As the evening continues, it seems the whole family must face up to hidden secrets, repressed truths, and intentional lies.  But where is the line between want, desire, and greed?  Just how far will someone go to secure an inheritance, and where will that leave those who know the truth?  Set against the scorching heat of a Mississippi landscape, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is reawakened under the directorship of the Royal Exchange Theatre's Joint Artistic Director Roy Alexander Weise to produce a contemporary twist on a modern classic.

You will enter the theatre to a streamlined set, designed by Milla Clarke.  Neutral colours, minimalistic, functional, the set is careful to act as a platform which does not distract from the powerful performances on display.  Everything seems meticulously planned, from the hanging wardrobe, mirror, and birthday cake that are brought to attention when needed, and simply airlifted out with ease when they are not.  A dishevelled bed is the central focus, and the circular room is edged out by low level platform walls that are put to great use as both storage and for actors to utilise, particularly to eavesdrop.  Door width drops of chain link represent exits, and with a rotating stage, move to different positions, helping to create different dimensions.  Lizzie Powell (lighting) and Alexandra Faye Braithwaite (composer & sound design) do an incredible job of illuminating the world outside of Brick and Maggie’s bedroom, showing that life goes on, and challenges can clash against the harsh realities facing us personally.  Thunder storms, firework displays, games of croquet, children playing, and celebrations are clearly happening in the world outside the inner turmoil inside.  This depicts that type of friction we can experience when it feels like our world is being tipped upside down by our problems, but the rest of the world pays no attention and continues to live and thrive.  It’s a subtle, yet incredibly clever juxtaposition.   

Ntombizodwa Ndlovu (The Mountaintop, The Space Between Us) elevates acting to a whole new level as Maggie.  Speaking virtually virtuoso for almost an hour, she is fierce, sensual, funny, and dripping with devilish delight.  Her strength was in engaging an entire audience with her brilliantly layered character, perfectly revealing new dimensions to hook you in time and time again.  Bayo Gbadamosi (I see You, The Great Season) leaves you speechless as Brick.  His steady decline into oblivion at the hands of his liquor is handled with a truth rarely seen before.  His demons eat him from the inside out, and the portrayal of this is outstanding, particularly his duologues with Big Daddy.  How he managed to have the strength and energy to not only deliver a stella performance, but do so whilst using much needed energy to battle on one leg the entire show with an uncomfortable crutch no doubt causing discomfort, was impressive to say the least.

Patrick Robinson (Sitting In Limbo, Casualty) is commanding and dominating as Big Daddy.  He has some of the vilest lines, and he delivers them unashamedly, creating a shocking humour that unsettles, yet intrigues.  His presence is felt whenever he enters the space and powerfully represents Big Daddy’s privilege and wealth with a simple gesture or look.  Jacqui Dubois (Rent, The Lion King) is sublime as Big Mamma and with her stunning singing, leads a few and welcomed choral moments from the cast.  She is able to show her characters strength and weakness with equal conviction and thrives in the role.  Daniel Ward (2.22 A Ghost Story, The Canary & The Crow) as Gooper and Danielle Henry (Come Closer, The Book Thief) as Mae make for the ultimate power couple and have created an eerily believable power hungry team.  They flit with ease between playing children with a feral energy, and their adult characters as easily as flipping a switch.  Bruce McGregor (The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Calendar Girls) as Rev Tooker and Lucas Cheong Smith (Doctor Faustus, The Glass Menagerie) as Doctor Baugh complete this strong cast and deliver some impeccable one liners, whilst equally supporting others by exemplary non verbal acting.

Roy Alexander Weise’s direction has taken a well-known story and allowed it to explode with new life by exploring its themes in this current day setting.  It highlights how some aspects of life never change, yet finds new meaning in others.  He examines the value of human life and challenges provocative preconceptions, providing the opportunity for further conversation outside of the theatre.  And he has celebrated the dark humour and cutting one liners in the play, allowing the audience to come up and catch their breath.  I wasn’t expecting any laughter in this play, but it just serves to highlight the brutality of the heavy themes even more, and is served to perfection.

This production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is powerful, passionate and polished.  It doesn’t shy away from strong offensive insults, gender inequality, and sexuality as a means of painting the truth and holding a mirror up to society.  I was enraptured and engaged by this raw human story, and its spellbinding cast.  The Royal Exchange are known for producing the best that theatre has to offer and this production provided their proof.  Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is acting and storytelling at its best, and for a night that is over 3 hours long, it speeds by in a flash, such is the spell it has you under.

With its feuding family showing how the promise of wealth through inheritance can make them ugly, and that same wealth corrupting their manners, respect and dignity for one another, prepare yourself to watch brilliant, yet sometimes uncomfortable conversations.  I imagine every audience member related to the play in a different way, had varying emotional reactions, and identified with unique themes.  Come on another day, and the same audience member could gain something new, feel something different, and be enlightened by nuances they missed the first time round, such is the duplicity and melting pot of themes within this one production.  It is admirable.  It is authentic.  It is Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.       




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