CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
by Tennessee Williams.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 29 November 2014.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm no performance 11 Nov Mat Wed & 11, 18 Nov 2.30pm Sat 3.30pm.
Audio-described: 15 Nov 3.30pm.
BSL Signed: 25 Nov.
Captioned: 21 Nov.
Post-show Discussion 20 Nov.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 November.
The Exchange provides a superb platform for a memorable production.
For such a stay-at-home play – the entire action takes place in the bedroom where favoured son Brick and his wife Maggie are staying in the family Mississippi mansion – James Dacre’s production has knocked around a bit, opening at Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Northern Stage, before playing at Dacre’s own Royal and Derngate in Northampton (where it lost a major actor to illness), before landing-up, full cast restored, in the Round at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.
Which proves ideal for the piece. With Mike Britton’s set suggesting the wealth which binds other son Gooper and his more openly acquisitive wife Mae, accompanied by their adored tribe of appalling “no neck monster” children, to the parents cloyingly called Big Daddy and Big Mama, the space is dominated by the double-bed into which the sexually-charged Maggie tries to seduce her indifferent husband.
The piece is revealed as a series of verbal wrestling matches, where strength brings respect, and indigence provokes contempt. With Gooper, the son who will never be the favourite, and his more openly favour-seeking wife, training her children in a chorus for Big Daddy’s birthday, the local preacher dropping hints about money for his church, and even the doctor colluding in lies about Big Daddy’s health, it’s left to three forceful characters to slug out the torrid emotional argument.
Among whom, Mariah Gale leaves it largely to the red lipstick and fine cosmetics to advocate Maggie’s case, fighting a weariness in her as she comes to terms with his dead friend Skipper being the emotional centre of Brick’s life. Maggie’s interested in the inheritance, but Gale focuses Maggie’s depth of emotional attachment on Brick, the former football-star who’s broken his leg trying to remain athletic, while drinking himself to oblivion.
Charles Aitken hops around the room defiantly rejecting any approach in his confrontations with his wife and father, whom Daragh O’Malley plays with a fierceness rasping through illness, crushing his unloved wife, in whom Kim Cresswell finds a measure of sympathy along with material vulgarity.
Each individual pain is clearly exposed on this platform, set against false hopes and empty celebration in a memorable production.
Brick: Charles Aitken.
Big Mama: Kim Criswell.
Gooper: Matthew Douglas.
Mae: Victoria Elliott.
Maggie: Mariah Gale.
Dr Baugh: Kieron Jecchinis.
Big Daddy: Daragh O’Malley.
Reverend Tooker: Sean Murray.
Dixie: Erin McCorquodale/Maya Pickford/Shenara McGuire.
Trixie: Freya Moran/Molly Rankine/Jasmine Bentley.
Buster: Louis Wall/James Shakeshaft.
Twin: Connor McPhilbin/Robert Fordyce/James Prentice.
Twin: Naomi Smith/Charlotte Dowson/Emily Prentice.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Mike Briitton.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Composer: Charles Cave (White Lies).
Dialect coach: Rick Lipton.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Dan Hutton.