This classic American mid-century play gets a modern make over in this sultry, sexy and vicious production. The Pollitt family descend on the family home to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday, secrets and lies are exposed, old wounds reopened and all emotions stripped bare. The plantation home of Big Daddy in the Mississippi Delta resembles Trump Tower with soaring gold tin walls, satin sheets, exuding wealth, opulence, possibly not taste. It’s an ugly world where women are judged solely on their appearance and child-bearing ability. Set in modern day America it all feels depressingly familiar.
The most talked about aspect of this production has been the nudity. Both Sienna Miller as Maggie and Jack O’Connell as Brick reveal all, more than once. Miller has said she hopes the audience can ‘see past’ the nudity whilst her co-star O’Connell has spoken about how he is worried about ‘shrinkage’ in the shower scene. Like it or not it’s hardly something we can ‘see past’. Does it pander to box office success? Maybe. However he’s in the shower and she’s desperately trying to seduce her husband making the nudity both relevant and natural. I also don’t think many people will take issue with two such physically beautiful people as Miller and O’Connell stripping off.
Miller is a capable actress and her Maggie the cat is effective and commanding. The first act is hugely demanding and is almost a fifty minute monologue. She lacks the depth and diversity this demands however she is incredibly energetic and always watchable as she brims with frustration and sexual desire. O’Connell portrays the ugly truth of alcoholism – bleary eyes always searching for the next drink and making himself sick in the shower so he can carry on drinking. It’s a brooding, tortured and dark performance.
There is strong support from Colm Meaney as Big Daddy as the brutal uncompromising patriarch. Lisa Palfrey as Big Mama cuts a tragic figure, a victim in this disgustingly chauvinistic world. The ensemble of actors work well together however the dramatic scenes descend into screaming matches and the trashing of the set is predictable.
This is a modern take on a classic which doesn’t always hit the mark. However, the two leading stars spark and ignite much like the fireworks on stage in this sizzling production.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof runs at the Apollo Theatre until 7th October.
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Words by Matthew Hyde