Comprising two acts of monologues, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a play which requires the three principal characters – Maggie, Big Daddy, and Brick – to really carry the action. Luckily, Richard Sockett is enormous as Big Daddy, and Jenny Scudamore as Maggie does a fantastic job of convincing us that, if we were her husband Brick, we would also be drinking.
The most interesting thing about the Tennessee Williams’ play is that the main character, Brick, does not talk much, and yet he is the one the audience automatically identifies with. As one watches Robin Owen limp around on his crutches, drinking, waiting for the click, continuously falling down in his outbursts, one gets drawn in. He is the one honest character, the only one who recognizes the lies we tell ourselves and each other to survive. He is convincing when he denounces the mendacity in the house, but even more when he recognizes his own.
During the first act, Brick is apathetic, disengaged, sarcastic. As the act ends, the tension between him and Maggie increases, becoming violent. The second act is almost a mirror image of the first act, this time with Big Daddy doing all the talking, Richard Sockett making the whole stage his, but here the tension erupts, with all the ugliness of the truth laid out.
The third act is, to me, a necessary evil. Plays need a resolution, but unfortunately the great performances in this production are in the first and second act. Reverend Tooker, well portrayed by Steve Doke, is perhaps the most uncomfortable character on stage. If he is supposed to underline the pettiness of all the other characters, it should have been made more obvious. The character of Doc Baugh suffers a similar problem. One could almost imagine the play without him.
Michael Flintoff delivers a tight performance as Gooper, but both Helena Holgate, playing Mae, and Gillian Frances, playing Big Mama, are slightly too comical for the play. This being said, Gillian Frances’ final moments on scene, declaring that there will be no “plan” and standing up to her older son and her daughter in law, are fantastic.
In Tennessee Williams’ original version of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, Big Daddy does not make an appearance on the third act. The change was done at the request of Elia Kazan, the original director, and unfortunately it seems to unbalance an otherwise perfectly structured play. However, in this production, it gives us a third act with the best performer back on stage, and a final lie that Brick seems to accept, perhaps because he is indeed alive.
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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is on at the ADC, 7.45pm, until Saturday. Get your tickets here.