The scene was set. On stage, a fan whirred monotonously round, doing little to dispel the thick soup of the Mississippi delta air, or the sense of frustration at the forefront of everything.
Maggie flounced on stage, and so 3 hours in the company of the dysfunctional and deeply unhappy Pollitt family began.
Admittedly this is not the smoothest of metaphors, but the only thing I can liken the play to is a 1950’s style EastEnders. Although Phil Mitchell fails to make a surprise cameo and denounce the Pollitts as liars in a booming cockney accent, he may well have done. All the parallels are there. Suicide, alcoholism, homophobia, a loveless marriages and deceit. Lots, and lots of deceit.
The whole play is centred on the various family members lying to each other. Brick lying to Maggie, Maggie lying to Big Momma, Big Momma lying to Big Daddy, Big Daddy lying to Gooper and so forth.
All this is done with the utmost precision from the cast. Zoe Boyle’s portrayal of cat like Maggie, oozing sexiness and beguilement is darkly contrasted to Jamie Parker’s portrayal of Brick and his cold indifference to anything but whiskey.
Although not always mentioned in a review, it’s hard to imagine what the play would have been like without the score of lurking bass and crashing cymbals, courtesy of the Leeds Improvised Music Association.
To say that a few skeletons are un-earthed during the course of the play is an under-statement. Skeleton after skeleton surfaces from the dark waters of the Mississippi- and hit the audience right where it hurts. In one scene, Brick lurches at Maggie with a chair, and narrowly misses sending her sprawling to the floor. This sent up an uneasy ripple of laughter from the audience, which I found very disturbing. Perhaps it is because Brick’s chair forced us to reflect upon our own lives, and realize that sometimes we are not so different from the Pollitt family. Ensuring that long after the set was dismantled, and the saxophonist caught the bus home, the story of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof would lurk somewhere at the back of our minds.
If anyone else went to see it, feel free to comment below, I'd love to hear everybody's thoughts.
You can see it on the guardian site here, and add comments there too.
*Also, sorry about the strange font arrangement- my laptop is menstruating.