Fathom Events' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof": Mellow Drama?

National Theatre Live's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
(photo: Johan Persson))

Continuing with its National Theatre Live HD Broadcast series, Fathom Events will be presenting the acclaimed Young Vic production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for a single evening this coming week. The 1955 work by playwright Tennessee Williams, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize for drama, was controversial at the time it was first produced, as it dealt with sexual issues including marital dysfunction and a possible repressed homoerotic relationship. In the wrong hands this might have been excruciatingly dated, but reviews of this production were virtually unanimous in praise of director Benedict Andrews (who was also acclaimed for his previous direction of another Williams work, A Streetcar Named Desire) as well as his cast.

Jack O'Connell & Sienna Miller in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
(photo: Johan Persson)

Sienna Miller plays Maggie the Cat, married to the ex-jock Brick, played by Jack O'Connell, who is on crutches as a result of a sports-related injury. The first act is reportedly a real tour de force for Miller as she berates her husband for never standing up to his father, Big Daddy, (superbly played by Colm Meaney) as well as hinting that Brick's long friendship with his dead best buddy Skipper might have been more than what it first seemed. It's the sixty-fifth birthday of the small clan's patriarch, and they have all gathered to celebrate it, with eyes centered on his considerable fortune.

Colm Meaney & Jack O'Connell in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
(photo: Johan Persson)

The second act is reportedly a wonderful diatribe between father and son as Big Daddy, described in the New York Times review as the “blunt philosopher in residence”, has a secret to share with his disappointing progeny. Their ontological discussion is the crux of the play, as Brick states that his only out is either liquor or death, and his father states that “the human animal is a beast that dies, but the fact that he's dying don't give him pity for others”. It remains today a melodrama with more than a grain of truth, and those involved in the family's dysfunction as a whole demonstrate the exaggerated truth of people's reactions when their survival is threatened.

This production, in addition to the acting and direction, boasts praised technical elements, including its dramatic copper and gold Lighting Design by Jon Clark and Set Design by Magda Willi, and is said to be a visually exciting version of a true masterpiece. As noted, it's a “one-off”, as they say in the mother country, and from all accounts is one performance not to be missed.


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