We decided to take a trip to our local cinema to catch the National Theatre Live recording of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the Young Vic production, which hit the West End last summer at The Apollo Theatre.
Starring Sienna Miller as Maggie and Jack O’Connell as Brick, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of Tennessee Williams’ most well-known and popular plays which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955. It is ultimately a play about relationships, lies and truths. It tells the story of Maggie “the cat” and alcoholic Brick who dwell in a loveless marriage that is surrounded by secrets and sexual tension. They are gathered at Brick’s family’s Southern cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. This is a southern family in crisis. The audience watch secrets threaten family dynamics and relationships begin to slowly unravel.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is also famously known for the film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. I haven’t seen the film so mum had to catch me up on what she thought and remembered. Although still known as a popular classic, the film limited Brick’s sexual desire for his best friend Skipper and ignored the play’s discussion of homophobia.
We didn’t have high opinions of Sienna Miller coming into this, so we were pleasantly surprised at her performance in Cat. She slinked around as Maggie, cat like, showing vulnerability and a painful desperation in her performance that made us question our initial doubts. Although she provided an impressive southern accent, I did still find that her southern drawl was sometimes monotonous and this made some dialogue lose its impact in the first act. On the topic of accents, Jack O’Connell’s southern accent was at times questionable. I am sure I heard an Irish twang!
Despite the questionable accent (which did get better in the second act), Jack O’Connell conquered the role of Brick. I am familiar with Jack from his time in Skins where he played one of my favourite characters, Cook. He is excellent at capturing the intensity and pain of a character. As the lights go up we see him sitting on the floor, naked, in an open shower. Jack captured the guilt, shame and pain of Brick exposing everything (literally) to the audience throughout. His slow descend into intoxication was crafted brilliantly. Stand out scenes for Jack were those with Big Daddy played by Colm Meaney who was also terrific. Big Daddy is rich, terminally ill and a force of vulgarity. The scenes between Jack and Colm were magic.
There were some odd moments in the production that didn’t quite work for me. Big Momma takes frequent mobile phone calls which snapped me out of the story, decade and moment. The use of modern technology felt out of place and unnatural.
All in all, it was a good 3 hours and 15 minutes well spent and I am glad we took the time to see it despite some of the niggles I had. I do love going to see NT Live productions at the cinema as we always end up having a discussion with other cinema goers afterwards. If you have the time I would recommend catching this production before it finishes at the cinema and admire some truly brilliant acting on the big screen.
Theatretastic rating 3/5: