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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

By Tennessee Williams

Royal Exchange Theatre, 4 November 2014

Charles Aitken as Brick (left) and Dara O'Malley as Big Daddy in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.  Photo - Jonathan Keenan

Charles Aitken as Brick (left) and Dara O’Malley as Big Daddy in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo – Jonathan Keenan

Williams’ most personal play, a favourite amongst all his works, appears in a compelling production at the Royal Exchange.

He certainly created a fabulous, large-as-life, monstrous character in Big Daddy, brought into being by Dara O’Malley’s intense performance this evening.  Though brash and crass, Big Daddy is also vital and – surprisingly perhaps, although why should we be surprised? – accepting; more accepting, actually, of Brick’s (played by Charles Aitken) indeterminate sexuality than he himself seems to be.   Above all, it’s the desire to face life head on, the commitment to plain speaking and, for want of a better word, truth, that makes Big Daddy such an attractive character.  An American Falstaff, one can see why he meant so much to Williams.  Pertinent here as well is that great Frank O’Hara line from ‘My Heart’: ‘I want to be at least as alive as the vulgar’ (whoever they are).  You want to have whatever Big Daddy’s on.

Left to follow in Liz Taylor’s footsteps, Mariah Gale as Maggie more than fills her stiletto pumps.  She’s by turns, sometimes all at once, seductive and vulnerable and ballsy: a heartbreaker.  Significantly, she feels a kinship with Big Daddy.  Once too often, Maggie tells us that she feels like ‘a cat on a hot tin roof’ (Enough, already; we get it!), but other than that, the play can’t really be faulted.   And nor can this production.  An excoriating journey.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 29 November 2014, further details can be found here.