Cat on a Hot Tin RoofJo Leeson
Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
By Kirsty Farrow
Our year 12 and 13 Literature classes, accompanied by Mrs Ward and Mrs Cass attended the live screening of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tenessee Williams, at Malton Palace Cinema. This adaptation was unique and interesting as the director had adopted a modern approach to this 1955 play, with its inclusion of props such as mobile phone and iPods.
I thought that this modern adaptation was very effective as it emphasised that the issues explored in the play are still prominent today. Issues such as negative attitudes towards homosexuality, the treatment of women, life-threatening illnesses, as well as the rocky interaction of an unhappily married couple.
In the play, the focus is primarily on the relationship between Brick (played by Jack O’Connell) and Maggie (Sienna Miller). We are introduced to these characters as soon as the play begins, in their bedroom. I knew from the very first scene that O’Connell and Miller were great casting choices for these characters. Miller was filled with near-hysterical enthusiasm, desperate for interaction with her husband, whereas O’Connell responded for the most part with silent sullenness, and I felt the actors bounced off each other effectively.
Maggie delivered some tremendous monologues in the first scene, which was an apt reflection of their marriage being very one-sided – his input was reduced to one word responses. This was an interesting, and perhaps somewhat accurate interpretation and portrayal of a failing marriage.
As the scene continued, it became clear that Maggie speaks so much as a way of filling the obvious void in their relationship. Brick’s calm exterior remains constant until we near the end of the first act. Maggie’s relentless talking takes a more touchy turn as she mentioned Brick’s late friend, Skipper. It soon becomes evident that Brick had a homosexual relationship with Skipper, and although the word ‘gay’ is never used, it is the elephant in the room.
In Act 2, the topic of sexuality continues to be addressed. It becomes clear to the audience that since Skipper’s death, Brick has embarked on a devastating downward spiral of self-destruction, trying to numb his internal conflict through imbibing vast quantities of alcohol. Brick engages in an intense conversation with Big Daddy, and continues to deny he had feelings for Skipper. It also becomes clear that Big Daddy is sympathetic to his son’s torment, but Brick finds it impossible to admit he is gay, even to himself, let alone anyone else, and the intensity of the scene is remarkable to watch. For me, the theme of repressed sexuality was the prominent theme in the play, and was an effective demonstration of something that can still be difficult to discuss today, especially with parents. I feel Tennessee Williams wrote this play as a way of challenging our perceptions of and our attitudes towards sexuality, and that the director of this performance is acknowledging that, while society may have come so far in our journey towards total acceptance, we still have some way to go yet.