Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Updated: Oct 13

Tennessee Williams

Produced by Everyman & Playhouse, Curve Leicester and English Touring Theatre

Liverpool Playhouse September 22-October 2, 2021; Theatr Clwyd, October 19-23

Run-time 2 hrs 20 min

Oliver Johnstone as Brick and Siena Kelly as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Pics: Marc Brenner
Oliver Johnstone as Brick and Siena Kelly as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Pics: Marc Brenner

Virtually three generations on from its 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning genesis, Tennessee Williams’ prosecution of oppressive southern states' patriarchal society is as potent as ever.

Redneck Country – still an alchemy of Christian fundamentalism, prejudice and superstition – remains dangerous territory for radical expression. The natural habitat of uncompromising Trumpism.

But how much more daring it was, more than 60 years ago, to forge an expose of familial disintegration fuelled by alcoholism, greed, jealousy and the lurking hint of homosexuality.

This joint production, with Curve Theatre and English Touring Theatre and directed by Anthony Almeida, painstakingly and grippingly ratchets up the claustrophobic and contemptible tensions between kith and kin, as an ostensibly respectable household is forced through a mesh of self-discovery.

And the key word – repeated and continually redefined – is mendacity: deliberate lies and falsehoods, which have ensnared all reason and broken any sort of meaningful communication.

The other pivotal theme, again heavily underlined, is mankind’s unique awareness of advancing mortality.

Nowadays, Big Daddy (Peter Forbes) would be succinctly described as a control freak. Yet in this suitably time-warped, prowling performance, there seeks to be some justification for the wanton manipulation of morals and assets as the natural order of things.

Sienna Kelly is beguiling as the cunning Maggie, hell-bent on reclaiming the physical affections of her husband Brick (Oliver Johnstone).

But it is his enigmatic sexuality and lasting bond with a now-deceased male friend from childhood that provides the ultimate intrigue – and the play’s one truly positive contemporary legacy: that an enduring same-sex friendship, no matter how innocent, non-physical or misinterpreted by others – may prove to be far stronger than any marriage.

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