Tennessee Williams’ searing masterpiece is brought back to the stage with this joint production between Curve Leicester, The English Touring Theatre and Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse.
It’s a play about deception, greed, sexual desire, self- delusion and how lies seem so much more important than truth.
Set on one hot Mississippi night, the highly dysfunctional Pollitt family meet up to celebrate Big Daddy’s 65th birthday and from the start all the characters begin their gameplay in earnest.
Williams’s beautifully constructed play has many elaborate and intoxicating layers and explores each fractured character in great depth – his dialogue is always stark and unrelenting, and director (Anthony Almeida) lets each of the actors shine in all the iconic parts.
Big Daddy played by (Peter Forbes) is the patriarch who likes to be the centre of his own universe as the owner of a vast plantation, a bully by any other name but fiercely loyal when it comes to family. His two sons the emotionally damaged and repressed Brick (Oliver Johnstone) and his jealous and greedy brother Gooper (Sam Alexander) are only too willing to play the game of who will inherit Big Daddy’s estate, cheered on by partners Maggie (Siena Kelly) and Mae (Shanaya Rafaat). Other characters include Doc Baugh (Suzette Llewellyn) and Reverend Tooker (Minal Patel) both unfortunate participants of Big Daddy’s birthday party.
Big Mama (Teresa Banham) like her husband Big Daddy watches on as the family rip themselves apart and Banham gave both a sensitive and thoughtful performance.
For me, the family interactions were totally mesmerising.
It’s fair to say that the main focus of the play is between Brick and Maggie and both (Johnstone) and (Kelly) give muscular and supremely well- judged performances throughout.
Unlike the Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor 1958 movie, this is the unadulterated version that doesn’t hide away from Brick’s obviously latent homosexuality and Maggie’s raging inner torment – this is Williams true vision and not given that false Hollywood sheen that lacked a great deal of passion and solid characterisation.
Almeida skilfully interwove all the characters within the claustrophobic confines of Big Daddy’s birthday celebration to great effect and led us, the audience to the final act that provides some tenuous closure but no overall resolution.
Pitch perfect performances from the entire cast but particularly Forbes, Johnstone and Kelly who have total command of the stage.
The set designed by Rosanna Vize is truly captivating involving circular transparent curtains that act as a metaphor for the truth that is hidden by all the family members throughout the play – mention also to the brilliant lighting design by Joshua Gadsby.
Cat is probably one of the best American plays ever written and it is to the company’s credit that they bring their best game to such an iconic and remarkable piece of theatre.
It works so well. A total treat both visually and emotionally.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is at the Liverpool Playhouse until 2nd October and then tours. https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof
Reviewer: Kiefer Williams
Reviewed: 22nd September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★