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Review | Cat On A Hot Tin Roof | Royal Exchange Theatre | 29/03/2023

Hot on the heels of their successful production of The Glass Menagerie last year, Royal Exchange Theatre take on another Tennessee Williams classic. As a playlist of 21st century R&B fills the in-the-round auditorium, the audience know that this will not be a traditional version Cat On A Hot Tin Roof before the play even begins.

Director Roy Alexander Weise wanted to reinvent the 1955 plays’ traditional setting to a more dream like environment. The simple modern set achieves this dreamlike setting with ease. Creams and gold are the colour palette for the bare yet plush set, giving a luxurious vibe that connotes the affluence of Big Daddy’s world. The appropriately claustrophobic set is often lit in orange hues to give the feeling that we are in the blistering heat of The Mississippi Delta.

The lighting itself is superb and darkens accordingly as the play progresses. At its most powerful, the lighting is used outside the auditorium to represent fireworks, which cleverly flood through the glass walls. Lizzie Powell shows the power of drawing the audience into the action, when lighting design done right.

Based on the short story ‘Three Players of a Summer Game’, this Pulitzer winning play focuses primarily on the strained relationship of Maggie (Ntombizodwa Ndlovu) and Brick (Bayo Gbadamosi). The piece is set on affluent Big Daddy’s (Patrick Robinson) plantation home.

Tackling issues of greed, lies and mortality, it isn’t an easy watch but is wonderfully emotive.

The acting is strong across the board, perhaps the stand out being Patrick Robinson in his haunting personification of Big Daddy. His performance is complimented by Jacqui Dubois as Big Mama, whose initial hard exterior develops into a softer one as the play develops. An honourable mention must also go out to Ntombizodwa Ndlovu, playing complex Maggie as multifaceted and very much believable. Her rendition of Rihanna’s “B**** Better Have My Money” was powerful and cleverly articulated her selfish desire for financial security and social mobility. When the full cast harmonise, it is hauntingly beautiful. Whilst these are brave choices, they pay off. It would have been interesting to see more of these musical moments interjected with the more traditional source material, for an even more unique retelling of this classic tale.

This production is sometimes performed as a three-act piece, and at just shy of 3.5 hours, a second interval would have been welcomed on this occasion. Although the second half is significantly longer, it is in-fact the first part where pacing felt a little sluggish. This scene setting however pays off in the second half, where the real drama is played out. Several darkly comedic lines work well and help bring a sense of relatability to a play which is almost 70 years old. Whilst a solid production, it could have benefited from some slimming down of longer monologues to make the drama even more impactful.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is on at Royal Exchange Theatre until 29/04/2023. See below for booking information:

Photo Credit: Helen Murray

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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