WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Apollo Theatre
WHEN: 13/7, press night 24/7, runs to 7/10
Director Benedict Andrews’ last Young Vic production starred Gillian Anderson and was his take on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. It was the smash hit of 2014, transferred to Broadway and his follow-up is no less deserving of such an honour.
- Read on for reasons including why this earned a standing ovation on its first preview
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the law against homosexuality in this country and so it’s fitting perhaps that this Williams classic about the close friendship between two men but written in the 50s should be so handsomely revived.
There is a lot of nakedness in this production which will no doubt generate much media attention and it opens with O’Connell (who you may remember from Channel 4’s Skins before Hollywood beckoned) full frontal naked and vomiting in an onstage shower (see picture above).
In fact there’s not an inch of O’Connell’s body that goes unseen here which is perfectly in keeping with the metaphorical crutch he holds close and emotional baring he undergoes.
He’s an alcoholic with a glamorous and besotted wife (Sienna Miller, utterly convincing as the titular cat unable to keep still), desperate for a child to please her husband Brick’s father (Colm Meaney, gruff, initially distant but ultimately understanding) who’s celebrating his 65th birthday thinking he’s cheated a cancer diagnosis.
What follows is visually arresting. Fireworks bang, fizz and crackle around us as children laugh offstage and appear on it in freakish formation dancing and shrieking clutching toy guns and sparklers.
Special mention must go to Big Mama (Lisa Palfrey, fabulous in Matthew Warchus’ film Pride but beautifully matriarchal, devoted yet wounded here) who refuses to believe her husband has anything yet many years before him.
Miller is a revelation, all feline and twitchy, but O’Connell is quietly devastating with one speech, all brotherly love yet mixed with disgust at how something so beautiful may be misconstrued, that there was audible audience sobbing all around us.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is undoubtedly one of Williams’ finest plays and it’s so inventively directed and played here, the brave decision to have a second half twice as long as the first actually intensifies the real drama at this play’s heart.
This was a first preview and things may change before its 24/7 press night, although we don’t think it needs any tinkering. Don’t miss before it departs for Broadway, baby.