Brick and his wife Maggie are gathered on the family plantation in the Mississippi Delta to celebrate patriarch Big Daddy’s sixty-fifth birthday. As the evening unfolds, cracks begin to appear in the wealthy family’s Southern gentility as tensions mount, secrets are revealed and unpleasant truths emerge.
Brimming with emotional intensity, family politics, greed, hypocrisy and suppressed sexuality, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof won the Pulitzer prize in 1955 and was made into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. Following her magnificent production of Death of a Salesman in 2010, and The Deep Blue Sea with Maxine Peake in 2011, Associate Director Sarah Esdaile returns to West Yorkshire Playhouse to direct this rich and timeless American classic, featuring Zoe Boyle (Downton Abbey’s Lavinia Swire), and Jamie Parker (Brownlie in Parade’s End).
Then the play begins.
From the outset, I was fascinated by Maggie and her rather one-sided conversation with Brick; her taciturn near-alcoholic husband. Zoe Boyle owned the stage and her fast-talking, mood swinging, opinionated Maggie delights with her passion and repulses with her desperation in equal measure. Jamie Parker’s Brick was compelling during the first set, though his replies were primarily monosyllabic grunts. Indeed, the director stated afterwards that Maggie carries some 85-90% of the dialogue (at break neck speed) during that opening volley!
By the time the first interval was called, I was utterly involved, leaning forward at a very uncomfortable position and couldn’t believe that nearly an hour had passed. There was a moment of silence before the entire room started to hum with people eagerly discussing what they had seen. By pure coincidence I had been sat beside a twitter buddy, who happened to have stage experience and her insights into the set and the stage were fascinating. Even more so was how different our interpretations were! An excellent sign in a play that was only a third of the way through.
The second part expands the world by introducing the (often repugnant) extended family. As intense as the preceding; I found the incredibly accurate portrayal of Brick – a man who deliberately dulls his senses with booze – exhausting and emotively charged. Full credit must also go to Richard Cordery – who played a dominant and abusive character with an extraordinary mix of aggression and charm to great effect. As the plot began to unfold; he managed to create pathos despite increasingly unforgivable actions.
Afterwards, the Guardian’s Andrew Dickson had organised for a chat with the Director and three chief actors, which I hope to blog about this weekend.
Visit the West Yorkshire Playhouse HERE
Visit the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof HERE