A reviews round-up for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre.
Benedict Andrews eagerly awaited production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof starring Sienna Miller, Jack O’Connell and Colm Meaney has opened at the Apollo Theatre.
Following his boldly devised and thrillingly performed A Streetcar Named Desire, the Australian director returns to Tennessee Williams and the Young Vic – with the first Young Vic production to premiere in the West End.
Predominately screen actors, Sienna Miller & Jack O’Connell’s performances divide the critics.
The Telegraph accords Sienna’s ‘Margaret as a hideously plausible portrait of a woman putting on a brave face‘; ‘sizzling and fireworks‘ (The Times); ‘commanding performance‘ (Independent) with the New York Times finding ‘Miller at last has a stage role she was born for, and she owns it unconditionally‘.
On the flip side the Stage felt it was ‘a strained performance’ with Variety saying ‘she’s ‘no match for him [Brick] as Maggie the Cat..She’s simply not a strong enough actress’.
Michael Billington, The Guardian thinks ‘the only real revelation comes from O’Connell’s Brick’, with Variety saying O’Connell gives as ‘unflinching portrayal’.
For Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut O’Connell ‘doesn’t really have the oomph to make sitting around being silently anguished look as compelling as it might’.
There are few things the critics can agree on: O’Connell’s accent is a bit wonky, and there is a great supporting casting in the guise of Colm Meaney’s Big Daddy, Lisa Palfrey and Hayley Squires.
Cat on A Hot Tin Roof runs until 7 October 2017 at the Apollo Theatre.
"I came ready and willing to write this off as mere summer filler. But it’s well acted, stylishly presented and very nicely, erm, tackled: preferred over 9 out of 10 Cats."
"Is it gratuitous? [Andrews] forte is peeling back layers. For all the flesh on display here, arousal is off the menu; states of mind are hard to fathom. Surrounding a minimalist bedroom with polished gold panels, we’re presented with a world in which there’s plenty of exposing room yet lots of hidden depths."
"Miller confirms she’s not just a pretty feline face - with ravishing blonde hair; her Margaret is a hideously plausible portrait of a woman putting on a brave face to hold back teary desolation."
Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph
"Fireworks and sizzling Sienna: this roof is more than just hot. This Tennessee Williams play needs not just to feel as hot as the American South on a summer’s day, it needs to sizzle. Sienna Miller as Maggie provides exactly that in the first half"
Ann Treneman, The Times
"The most centrifugal of Tennessee Williams’s great plays, Cat (1955) requires constant and careful stoking to ensure that the dramatic flame burns brightly throughout all three acts of a bitter game of unhappy families. This West End production from the high-flying Young Vic doesn’t quite manage that, but what it does have is a compelling performance of high-wattage star allure from Sienna Miller."
"Slinky, seductive in black slip and killer stilettos and coiled with nervous energy, Maggie prowls around the bedroom, talking almost uninterrupted for the entire first act about her loveless, and now sex-less, marriage. It’s a big ask of any performer and Miller turns in a faultless performance."
"Magda Willi’s design .. looks like a slickly anonymous hotel room rather than a bedroom in Big Daddy’s large plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. The production has been updated, to no discernible benefit, and now looks awkwardly stuck in an odd no-time zone."
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
"Benedict Andrews’s radical update of the classic delivers emotional intensity shot through with humour – and a blistering performance by Jack O’Connell"
"Andrews and his Swiss designer, Magda Willi, have taken some radical decisions. They banish scenic realism, so there is no hint that we are in a vast Mississippi delta mansion: instead they seize on the constant reference to cages to present us with a gold-plated prison."
"The action is updated to the present, with frequent use of mobile phones. This strikes me as questionable since, in the era of same-sex marriage, you feel the characters would be less shy about discussing Brick’s ambivalent relationship with his dead friend, Skipper."
"The best feature of Andrews’s production is that it combines emotional intensity with a leavening humour. You feel the tension between Brick, a star athlete who has retreated into alcoholism, and his wife, Maggie, who yearns for the sexual pleasure they once enjoyed."
"Of the three main performers, however, the only real revelation comes from O’Connell’s Brick. He has the obsessiveness of the true alcoholic, his attention rigidly fixed on the four whiskey bottles prominently placed downstage. He also suggests the inwardness of a man locked into his own private world and still tormented by his denial of Skipper’s love and his own furtive wish to reciprocate it."
Michael Billington, The Guardian
"Sienna Miller..conveys something of Maggie’s desperation but it’s a strained performance and there are times when her accent makes it sound like she’s been binge-watching Justified."
"Andrews has chosen to locate this play, in which truth is so elusive, in a world of gleaming surfaces and extremities of wealth. Designer Magda Willi has coated the stage in gold. It's ravishingly lit by Jon Clark, while Alice Babidge’s costumes appear to be composed almost entirely of satin and sequins"
"Andrews’ chosen aesthetic never completely connects with the emotional world of the characters and, with its reliance on nudity, the production ends up feeling like an exquisite skin show coupled with an opulent soap opera. The scene between Meaney and O’Connell adds some welcome warm blood, but this is a production that never finds its click."
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
"Though it begins and ends with an extremely clear view of actor Jack O’Connell’s penis, this take on Tennessee Williams’s classic play from Aussie star director Benedict Andrews is a less edgy affair than one might hope."
"There are some beautiful moments, especially towards the end: a sort of quiet, unsettling chaos as the family starts to tear itself apart under the apocalyptic fireworks of patriarch Big Daddy’s birthday celebrations (stunningly lit by Jon Clark, with a fidgety jazz score by Gareth Fry)."
"Miller and O’Connell are backed up by some much more accomplished actors: Hayley Squires is scene-stealingly unrecognisable from her turn in ‘I, Daniel Blake’ as Brick’s awful sister-in-law Mae. And Colm Meaney’s Big Daddy is fierce and complicated, his rich man’s unpleasantness tempered by a genuine love of poor Brick – their scene together is O’Connell’s strongest."
Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
"Benedict Andrews offers a brilliant, lacerating account of the play that jolts you out of any complacent sense of cosy familiarity with the dramatist's characteristic terrain. He's a director who likes to strip things to their primal forces."
"Sienna Miller reeks glamour, allure, and sexual frustration as Maggie but her commanding performance also spiritedly brings home how this is a woman who was born poor, raised poor and expects to die poor unless she can somehow use her native aplomb to engineer a child by a man who won't touch her. She's vulgar in a classier way, so to speak, than her rich in-laws. "
"The big show-down between father and son – a literal and figurative kicking away of crutches – is beautifully negotiated by O'Connell and Colm Meaney, who signals the sensitivity and the dread of mortality in this lewd, overbearing man, and the whole is played out against the ironic explosions of celebratory fireworks."
"It's unforgettable and not just because Andrews's intrepid production leaves the stage covered with ice-cubes and shredded birthday cake."
Paul Taylor, Independent
"this thrilling revival .. burns bright enough to scorch but also to illuminate. Starring a perfectly paired Jack O’Connell and Sienna Miller, this Young Vic production brings combustible conviction to a smoldering classic that has only rarely ignited in performance in recent years."
"as he demonstrated with his daringly unpoetic take on “A Streetcar Named Desire,” .. with Gillian Anderson, Andrews understands the primal instincts that animate this great playwright’s work."
"With Maggie, the poor but shrewd debutante who has married into money, Ms. Miller at last has a stage role she was born for, and she owns it unconditionally. The play’s first act is largely hers."
"The ensemble is the best I’ve seen in “Cat.” Lisa Palfrey locates a heartbreaking dignity in the foolishness of Big Daddy’s doting wife. As Gooper and Mae — Brick’s slick brother and alarmingly fertile sister-in-law — Brian Gleeson and Hayley Squires persuasively ground their characters’ comic gold-digging in a fetid earthiness."
Ben Brantley, New York Times
"Money can’t buy you class. Australian director Benedict Andrews gives Tennessee Williams’ inheritance drama “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” a twist for the Trump era: Gone are the cream suits and vintage petticoats of old; in come white dinner jackets, black satin sheets and more sequins than a RuPaul convention. Yet this glitzy, starry West End staging .. suffers from the same issue. Miller provides little more than pulling power and, for all the flash visuals, Andrews just can’t get the old “Cat” jumping."
"O’Connell gives an unflinching portrayal of drink dependency as Brick Pollitt, the golden boy gone to rot."
"Miller, sadly, is no match for him as Maggie the Cat – and it means the play’s opposing force, its sex drive, goes missing. She may strip down alongside Brick, she may crawl across the floor like a stock-footage seductress, but there’s no strategy to her sexuality. She’s simply not a strong enough actress."
Matt Trueman, Variety