Theatre review: Cat on a ‘hit’ tin roof at Novello


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Novello, London

catIt was a huge hit on Broadway last year, but would it make the grade with West End audiences and critics? The much hyped all-black anglo-american casting of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which transferred to the Novello Theatre last week, was to be an interesting one. I'm pleased to say, it impressed.

Being a Cat virgin this was going to be a unique experience. I'd read the play, two – possibly three times – yet it was quite remarkable how quickly I forgot the colour of the actors' skin and became totally captivated in a story of love, lies and entanglement.

Debbie Allen's production, set in the 1980s, is bold and lively for the most part, if a little slow and stationary in the setup.

Adrian Lester's Brick is a broken man who has hit the bottle, unable to cope with his confused sexuality. His performance shows real clarity, a journey of torture and self-loathing – an abhorrent life he just can't escape from. His most powerful scene is with the great US actor James Earl Jones who plays his father, Big Daddy. Recognising his favourite son is distressed, he pulls him to one side to counsel. What follows is an intense and gripping scene of love and trust, played brilliantly by both actors.

James Earl Jones is magnetic as Big Daddy, a large authoritative figure who commands the space. His long-suffering, yet wholly devoted wife Big Mama, played by the charismatic Phylicia Rashad, skirts attentively hoping for a glimmer of affection.

The third act swings along and builds up a fitting momentum. This revival is brilliant and is sure to do good business in a West End that seems to be, on the whole, flourishing.

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