‘Twas my friend’s birthday earlier last week so I treated her (and myself) to see Tennessee Williams‘ Cliggiddy-Cat on a Higiddy-Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London. And what can I say? It was a such a hoot!
I’ve never been to the place and was quite impressed at how fancy and posh-looking it was inside. Immaculately painted walls, huge fairytale-like mirrors, chandeliers galore! Nice, I thought.
The birthday girl and I (who are regular theatre buddies) commented on how that was the first time we’ve ever seen so many black people in a theatre audience. “Black people attract black people”, she surmised before getting a strange look from a white lady sitting to our right.
No adventures to report, apart from a woman who asked one of the ushers “Are those seats behind us taken? I ask because that man *she points rudely to her right* keeps coughing and spreading his germs I was wondering if we could move!”
“Mother!” Her son whispered fiercely, “Will YOU be quiet! You’re embarrassing me”. Of course, this only propelled her to make more of a fuss. But she wasn’t the only one who noticed the middle-aged man on her row that took it upon himself to spread his nasty bacteria- the whole audience did! In fact, it was as if he was the star of the show!
Towards the end of the interval, the coughing mongrel greeted his friend back to her seat with a very loud: “Here she is!” She had only popped to the loo! He then grabbed her by the shoulders and laid a smooch on what would have been her lips if she didn’t offer her cheek instead! I actually wanted to throw up! It was painful to watch…so I watched! But nothing would have prepared me for what my eyes were about to behold. As she sat down, he stayed standing and started thrusting his hips towards her before lunging forward as if trying to stretch out his calf muscles. Eeeewww! I didn’t pay my money to see this tomfoolery!….
Anyway, once again, I digress!…. As described on the official website, the all black cast is “dynamic” indeed. It’s led by Academy Award® nominee and two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones (he played the king of Zamunda in Coming To America), Tony Award® winner Phylicia Rashad (you might remember her as the mum in The Cosby Show), Olivier Award winner Adrian Lester (Mickey stone in the drama Hustle) and Tony Award® nominee Sanaa Lathan (a.k.a the eye candy).
Directed by Debbie Allen, this 1955 masterpiece (though shifted into the 1980s for this production) is about a wealthy American family from the dirty South who get up to the normal dysfunctional everyday shenanigans. The play is set on Big Daddy’s (the patriarch, played by James Earl Jones) 65th birthday. He and his wife, Big Mamma (played by Phylicia Rashad) are the only ones who are unaware that he is actually dying from cancer rather than just suffering from a spastic colon (that’s not a joke. That’s the actual medical term).
Their alcoholic son Brick (Adrian Lester), a former professional footballer, makes many attempts throughout the play to fend off the sexual advances made by his nymphomaniac of a wife, Maggie (Sanaa Lathan) because she had an affair with his best friend who drank himself to death (literally) and doesn’t feel like he can measure up. And considering Brick’s left leg is plastered and he has to rely on crutches he does a pretty good job at avoiding Maggie, the sex fiend.
Brick fears intimacy with his father but all is revealed when the two finally sit down and talk. And thank goodness he eventually gets that ‘click’ in his head that he’s been waiting for all day (you’ll know what I mean when you go and watch it).
The funniest part for me was when Big Daddy and Brick were having their male bonding chat and Big Daddy says: “You know what I want to do?” He demonstrates a fingering motion with his index and middle fingers and then gyrates his hips while saying “Bang, bang bang!” Or something along those lines. Cringe-worthy or what! But hilarious nevertheless!
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot but the play is filled with just the right balance of laughs and seriousness. The acting is second to none.
Sanaa Lathan effortlessly delivers a very sultry and sassy Maggie; Adrian Lester has a very impressive American accent and projects his character’s discontent most convincingly; Phylicia Rashad made me chortle on many occasions but I didn’t feel enough of her character’s pain. And of course James Earl Jones’ presence as the aggressive, foul-mouthed, wealthy Mississippi plantation-owner was tremendous.
I did however, wonder what Richard Blackwood was doing in it. I think he said a grand total of… wait for it…..drum roll please….four words. My friend only noticed him at the end when all the characters came out to bow. She was like “Oh, there he is!”. Pahaha! (Sorry, that was mean of me to laugh).
My only disappointment with the play lies with its ending, which I thought came to an abrupt halt.
But in all honesty, it’s one of THE best plays I’ve seen. I give Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 8.5 pearls out of 10.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof will be playing until Saturday 10th April 2010. To book your ticket visit: http://www.catwestend.com
(Photographs: Alastair Muir- The Telegraph)