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Mr Monkey sees Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Venue : Royal Exchange Theatre
Start date: 30th October 2014
End date : 29th November 2014
Visit date : 4th November, 2014
Mr Monkey looking at the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof poster
Mr Monkey took the bus into Manchester and scurried along to the Royal Exchange Theatre for the press night of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

There are apparently at least five versions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, ranging from Williams' original script, via the Elia Kazan influenced version of the first public production, to the 1958 MGM movie with its happy ending. This production at Royal Exchange uses Williams' original third act, which was altered considerably for the first production on Broadway.

On midsummer evening in 1954, a family have gathered at a plantation in the Mississippi Delta to celebrate the birthday of the family patriach, Big Daddy. The gathering is complicated by several factors.

Big Daddy and Big Mama are worried about Big Daddy's failing health. The two brothers, Brick and Gooper, and their wives loathe each other. Failed athlete Brick and his wife, Maggie, have severe marital problems. Most importantly, almost everyone knows that Big Daddy is riddled with inoperable cancer, while Big Daddy and Big Mama have been told by the family doctor that the cancer tests proved negative. Gooper fears that Big Daddy will die intestate and the plantation will go to Brick, which is unthinkable to Gooper.

All these tensions result in possibly the most miserable birthday party ever.
Gooper (Matthew Douglas) smokes, Maggie (Marian Gale) thinks, and Brick (Charles Aitken) drinks(Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)
The entire play is set in Brick and Maggie's bedroom, as Brick has a broken ankle which stops him going downstairs. Virtually the entire set - floor, chairs, bed, lamps, vanity table, radio/drinks cabinet - is white.

This, coupled with the excellent lighting and sound effects throughout the play, gives a wonderful impression of heat and brightness.

The set also includes some louvred panels suspended above the stage. These apparently form the walls of the room for performances on the proscenium stages of the Royal & Derngate (Northampton) and Northern Stage (Newcastle). In the Royal Exchange they do contribute to the feeling of enclosure and heat, but at the expense of restricting the view from some of the upper level seats.

The cast as an ensemble are excellent, no matter how appalling the characters they play are. Mr Monkey particular appreciated Marian Gale as Maggie and Daragh O'Malley as Big Daddy as they responded to changes in circumstances.

Gooper's children were particularly good in roles that had more than just running in and out annoyingly.

While parts of the story didn't fully make sense when he thought too hard about them, Mr Monkey enjoyed the intensity of the play and was particularly impressed by the way the first act ended almost mid-sentence and re-started with the same tension after the interval.
Brick (Charles Aitken) discusses his drinking habits with Big Daddy (Daragh O'Malley) ( Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)
Mr Monkey thoroughly enjoyed this production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, even though, as it's by Tennessee Williams it's not totally comfortable viewing and doesn't (and shouldn't) provide an evening of mirth.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof runs until 29th November 2014.
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