Skip to main content

Cat on A Hot Tin Roof- notes

I don't know the play very well.
I only know the filmed white washed version that makes it thematically more palatable and acceptable to a Hollywood audience

Undeniably-at least for me- the acting in that film is first rate. Paul Neuman to me seems in touch with his angry and turned against himself self. Liz Taylor can't  half act. 

The problem is that the film is an awful reinterpretation of TW's play and does audiences a disservice if they wish to see the play as TW intended.

I spent 45 minutes watching Benedict Andrew's production unable to let go of Richard Brooks' interpretation and Liz Taylor's Maggie before I could understand where Sienna Miller was coming from. Before I could understand why Brick was exactly that, a brick wall in absolutely every way possible. SM has to hoist so much of it for an hour, getting nothing from Jack O'Connell so that one cannot understand how this Brick and this Maggie could ever get together. There is not even any kind of platonic compatibility or empathy. It is as hard as nails.

But then, in TW's perhaps structurally flawed play, after the interval one sees why Maggie is as she is. She is not as big in this set up as she would like to be, certainly not as much as the film leads you on to believe.  The chemistry between Brick and Big Daddy is almost 100% in this version. How Maggie has to fight for her life. In the film version, the impression given by the preparation of the actors, probably not intended, is that this state of affairs between Brick and Maggie is relatively new. Here, BA's directing, where the actors' chose to pitch their performances, one can tell it has been going on for so long. And there is no hope in any platonic shared niceness.  Brooks' gave us something to hold onto, BA gives us nothing.

It is like watching a moving Francis Bacon picture. The framing device is even the same. Magda Willi's set also allows for optical illusions- deliberate?- the gold leaf walls blend into each other to give a sense of side false walls: the actors walk through this weird gold like mist to get onto the stage. They are breaking a circle, or crossing a boundary into a sacred space?
There is a frame within a frame and an elevated stage, just like in so many Bacon paintings. Bacon really stripped things down to primal animal instincts and fights for survival. Same here. The gold leaf wall at the back distorts in Jon Clark's light, warps in fact. And what this does to that moment at the end, so necessary to stage it in such a way that for a second one thinks a Bacon painting has come alive. It is the best and most genius moment of the production.

At times the kids stand on the edges of this stage within a stage like wax works or dolls. Why? 
Actors have to step awkwardly up onto the inset stage. It is a prison, Brick's hell, set away from the rest of the world, or, this stage is the only world, everything that happens off it seems unreal, why?
To increase the artifice, fireworks emphasise and punctuate- very pleasingly- moments of high drama.
The inner stage reaches out over the original edge and over hangs into the audience. 
It's hard core this production. Like Ben Brantley says, there is nowhere at all for anyone to hide. Not even Brick in his shower. There is no offer of hope. Like in real life most likely. 
I can't understand why the critics have focussed on the nakedness for all the wrong reasons.
It is so entirely necessary, especially at the end. Can't they see it, feel it? Critics have a responsibility to respond maturely to something they especially think an audience or general public may wish to respond immaturely to. Quentin Letts' was particularly abhorrent although it says more about his internal life than anything else.
But this response to the idea of nakedness on a west end stage has angered me. Of course everyone will make a fuss about it for the wrong reasons says everyone whilst making a fuss about it.
Why do they not see?


Popular posts from this blog

Walking the Tightrope- Theatre Delicatessen

Site-specific set? Perhaps. In the old Guardian offices in Farringdon, Offstage Theatre and Theatre Uncut curate a cycle of 12 short plays exploring the tension[s] between art and politics, reactions to the budget cuts to the arts in the UK and debate freedom of expression controversies. Corruption, class divides, perception, blood money, gesture politics and culpability, it’s all there and recent topical events are given stage time, from The Tricycle’s controversial decision to withdraw their support for the UK Jewish Film Festival to the Barbican’s cancelled Exhibit B. The plays are entertaining- Sun City by April De Angelis, Re: Exhibit by Gbolahan Obisesan, Old Newland by Julie Pascal, Tickets are on Sale Now by Caryl Churchill and Exhibit A, by Neil LaBute, all deserve special mention for looking beyond the parameters of funding and freedom of expression in the UK arts- by which of course, I mean a theatrical London still surfing the very last trickling waves of Colonialism and it…

Collabo- Hip hop with a difference

There’s a buzz in the air at Stratford Circus Arts Centre. No wonder, this is the 10th anniversary of Collabo, Tony Adigun’s annual dance celebration founded in 2006 to promote new collaborations and hip-hop hybrids from dance groups. Friday’s program of short portfolios opens with 10 (UnTitled Dance Company) choreographed by Lukas McFarlane lasting fifteen minutes (no mean feat in the hip-hop world) and featuring 10 tracks and illustrating some super synchronised steps and gyros executed with military precision. The occasional, surprising rigidness of the choreography is broken by experimentation with spoken word. Liberation (What Is Written Dance Company) has the same exactness, but their more simple choreography is easier on the eye after the mass sprawl of 10. Kweku Aacht and Guest Dancers produce an interpretation of a track performed live onstage- the sometimes rowdy crowd shouting out and encouraging the performers on hold their breath as the troupe fluctuate between free style a…

Once in a Lifetime- theatre review: slightly revised to reflect the ambiguous ending

Once in a Lifetime is a show about the tenuous and complicated relationship between creativity and destruction. Re-adapted here by Chris Hart, son of one half of the original writing duo Moss Hart and George S Kaufman, the show may well be set in 1930s Hollywood just as the talkies are about to change cinema forever, but it might also be poking fun at an art form that is a little closer to home. Director Richard Jones always takes risks with little produced, marginalised or very well known works in a bid to uncover something new that might be a comment on our own times. Here, a story about hapless Vaudeville trio act George (John Marquez), Jerry (Kevin Bishop) and May (Claudie Blakley), who set out to conquer Hollywood with their mythic elocution school, is the perfect fit for the director to explore themes that seem to obsess him: national myth, parody, the tyranny of power, willed self-destruction, bureaucracy, global fantasy, etc. So far, the show has not gone down so well with the c…