Theatre Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Posted on May 7, 2010

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Venue: Oxford Playhouse.

Nothing but praise has been awarded to the revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof so expectations were high. It can be easily said that these expectations were met and succeeded.

The clearest slant director Debbie Allen gives the play is the casting of an all-black family. When Williams first wrote the play in 1955 it is unlikely there would have been a wealthy black plantation owner. But ethnicity becomes an almost forgotten change and makes apparent the universality of the issues tackled by Williams including lies, truth, illness, sex and death.

While the actors were all brilliantly cast, it is James Earl Jones who owns the stage; his popularity immediately made evident by the intense applause given before he has had time to utter his first word. His tremendous stage presence as Big Daddy is overwhelming particularly in his scene with Adrian Lester’s Brick. Jones manages to fully capture the character of Big Daddy, a man who believes his cancer is in remission and decides to live life differently, including having sex with young women and accompanying these claims with shocking pelvic thrusts.

The play is full of rage and heart-wrenching moments; the audience are aware of Big Daddy still dying while he is rejoicing in his new found life, Brick’s confrontation with his alcoholism and incapability to accept reality, Big Mama’s yearning for her husband’s love and of course Maggie the Cat’s deep sexual frustration. Yet with all the tension, Allen makes the most of every comical aspect to alleviate the tension and does so brilliantly. It is difficult to imagine the audience laughing after such raw emotion is displayed yet this is exactly what Allen achieves.

Alexandra Bear

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Posted in: Theatre