The West Yorkshire playhouse has long been regarded one of the central lynchpins of culture in Leeds and with national coverage heaping praise and plaudits on their current production of Tennessee Williams’ classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, it looks to remain as such. So when an opportunity arose for someone from the Met Online to cover the play, I jumped at the chance with little thought of my credentials for covering such a piece.
For the uninitiated, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof follows the family of wealthy cotton plantation owner ‘Big Daddy’ in the Mississippi Delta. The play centres in on both his recent diagnosis with cancer and his son Brick’s alcoholism (due to the loss of his closest friend) and tracks the ensuing chaos that is unleashed among a family in which money and power rule supreme.
As I made my way to the theatre, I evaluated my credentials for reviewing such a monumental play and fervently hoped that a watching a couple of Shakespeare productions and Christmas pantomimes would hold me in good stead. So armed with naught but a programme and an open mind I ventured forth to see what I would find.
The play, put simply, was incredible. The heart-rending emotion of the family’s strife was put right alongside the mundanities of bitching about the behaviour of nephews and nieces. Jamie Parker’s portrayal of Brick is outstanding, he moves from scene to scene seemingly on a constant verge between psychological breakdown and hysterical laughter. Along with Zoe Boyle’s spiteful but sympathetic ‘Maggie The Cat’ who through sheer tenacity alone struggles to hold on to her and Brick’s volatile marriage, overcoming a poor upbringing, social exclusion from the family and a husband who hates her (but loves liquor) in order to preserve their chances for riches and happiness.
The performance of the night however, is safely in the hands of Richard Cordery whose representation of the family patriarch is a red blooded, southern good ol’ boy unwilling to relent his hard-earned power. He shows a blatant disregard for his wife’s histrionics, coupled with a clear dislike for his eldest son and a willpower so strong you believe he can control not only the entire family, but the terminal disease that’s killing him.
We were treated to all this talent on a wonderfully adventurous set, masterfully recreating the feeling of a bedroom in a Mississippian mansion yet one third drenched in Bourbon coloured water. Although the end result of the play (I’ll try not to ruin the plot here) may not be the rosy end you would wish for, watching an emotionally bankrupt man struggling with his crumbling family life whilst simply trying to get drunk enough he no longer cares, can have its moments of guilty hilarity.
So if you live in Leeds and watching Big Bang Theory re-runs isn’t fulfilling your cultural thirst, head down to the playhouse where you’ll be greeted with a superb performance and a great evening out. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 27th October. Tickets available here: http://www.wyp.org.uk/what’s-on/book-tickets?eventid=1974&type=eventlist