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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Review

Anthony Almeida helms a brand new revival of the Tennessee Williams classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Marking the first live play produced at Curve for 18 months. The production is a co-production between Curve, English Touring Theatre and the Everyman and Playhouse in Liverpool. 

This tense, cramped and confined production of a families fractured relationships whilst they deal with ill health, drink, lies and each others confessions. Director Almeida, winner of the 2019 Royal Theatrical Support Trust Sir Peter Hall Director Award, strips back the piece in an attempt to make the material fresh and speak to a modern audience. The scene is set from the get go with the 5 children walking on stage and let out the most ear piercing screams.

The cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Photo by Marc Brenner 

The piece is very wordy and the characters are hard to sympathise with but ultimately this window into this family is a fascinating examination of humanity and connection with those around you with each cast member delivering a terrific performance. Sometimes the language is lost either in the accents or the delivery but in the end none of it matters as an audience you feel very much like eve's droppers the whole time as you get a window in this family.

The play centres around Big Daddy and his family on his plantation where it's his 65th birthday and the family are planning a celebration. The main focus is Daddy's second son Brick, whose is lost in a battle to his liqueur, and his connection to Daddy which will affect who inherits the plantation and his connection to his wife Maggie. 

The early scenes powerfully explore Brick and Maggie's failing relationship. The pair now sleeping in separate beds and have ultimately not been able to give Big Daddy the child he wants. Brick is so consumed by drink that Maggie is worried he is losing his chance to inherit the family wealth which could go to Brick's brother, Gooper. 

Oliver Johnstone (Brick). Photo by Marc Brenner.

Oliver Johnstone does a fantastic job with Brick. He's not a character you should probably sympathise with but ultimately there's something charming about Johnstone's performance. He superbly maintains the limpness of a man lost to his drink. Siena Kelly is seductive and likeable as an outsider who in on the inside as a relatively new member of the family. Those early scenes are a particularly uncomfortable as the pair row. 

The central relationship between Johnstone's Brick and Peter Forbes's commanding Big Daddy is gripping to watch. The pair struggle to maintain conversation as Brick accuses Daddy of never being able to say whatever he needs to. The second act felt much more precise with the actions moving with much speed as we learn further of Big Daddy's ill health diagnosis, which has been kept secret from him. 

The design by Rosanna Vize is striking. Throughout the use of the other characters being on stage sat on benches that surround 3 side of the stage is a clever choice that enhances the audience to feel like your part of the action as you listen in to the confessions that flow from each person. It feels like every word has someone else listening. The early use of a curtain distorting some of the scenes parallels the lostness of the relationships.

Ultimately this is a family so torn but in the end still connected. It'll make you question your connections with those around you. After the past 18 months where we've all been kept apart this play about connection is fascinating especially witnessing these well rounded characters and their relationships with each other.

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ a captivating and intense character study.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof continues at Curve until Saturday 18th September. Tickets are available from The production then tours to Liverpool Playhouse, Marlowe Theatre Canterbury, The New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, Theatr Clwyd and Mayflower Studios Southampton.

Peter Forbes (Big Daddy) and Oliver Johnstone (Brick). Photo by Marc Brenner

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