“CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF”
By TENNESSEE WILLIAMS From NTLive:
In November 1972, I attended my first performance of a Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire”: presented by Clonmel Theatre Guild and directed by Brendan Long, a poet of the theatre. It was for me a riveting experience, with what is still considered one of the twentieth century’s greatest plays. (Brendan and the Guild in those years gave us production after production, such as GB Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” and O’Casey’s “The Silver Tassie”, which in the near half-century since have never been bettered – priceless memories!) I have a feeling that at that time, Arthur Miller and Williams (two of the three great pillars of American Theatre – along with Eugene O’Neill), were more or less on a parity in terms of how frequently their plays were performed; today, there can be little doubt that Miller’s star shines much more brightly in world theatre.
While I rate Miller as being one of the world’s great playwrights, I also feel that Williams’ eclipse is to be regretted. “Streetcar” is one of the great plays and “The Glass Menagerie” is one of the most tender and poignant I’ve ever attended. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” which we saw here in Dungarvan in 2014 from Dungarvan Dramatic club, in a wonderful production Directed by Fidelma Meaney is also a powerful drama – some standout acting performances in that production (it would be invidious to give names) illustrated the power and the passion in this play.
The highly-rated 1958 film, with Elizabeth Taylor, the excellent Paul Newman and the singer famed for singing “A Little Bit of Tear Left me Down”, Burl Ives, (displaying unexpected Thespian skills) gives us a fair of the power of this play.
Thomas Lanier (Tennessee) Williams was born in 1914 in Columbus, Ohio, a clergyman’s son. At twelve his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. He went to college but left after a few years to work in a shoe company. In 1938 he graduated from The University of Iowa. He won a Theatre Guild Prize for Four One-Act plays in 1939. His life was shadowed by a brutal Prefrontal Lobotomy undergone in 1937 by his sensitive and fragile beloved sister, Rose, who, in disguise, appears in many of his plays – young women who are unable to confront reality or flee into illusion. She is given a beautiful alter ego in Williams, first ‘hit’ “The Glass Menagerie” (1945), a beautiful and poignant play. He wrote prolifically till the end – he died in 1983 – choked to death on the plastic cap of a bottle for nasal spray or eye solution. He was a much-decorated playwright, including The Pulitzer Prize for “Streetcar” (1947) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955). For decades, he bestrode American Theatre and perhaps ‘the whirligig of time’ will restore his reputation to its rightful place.
Big Daddy Daddy Pollitt, a rich cotton plantation owner, is celebrating his sixty-fifth birthday with his family. Only he and his wife are unaware that he is dying. One son has five children while the other, Brick, a former football hero, is childless and has taken to liquor. His wife, Margaret, has suspicions about a relationship he had with a now-dead friend male friend – was it homosexual?. When Big Daddy confronts Brick, the latter accuses him of avoiding the truth of his own fatal illness. Themes of mendacity, hypocrisy, homosexuality and hatred all come together in this powerful and sometimes brutal play.
Williams once wrote:- “People are always asking me which is my favourite among my plays … and when I succumb to my instinct for the truth, I say “it must be “Cat”. That play comes closest to being a work of Art and a work of Craft”; he went on to add that Big Daddy was his most satisfying character in terms of Artistic Creation.
With Siena Miller and Colm Meaney, this performance filmed Live in 2017 should be a treat – “The Independent” described it as “a brilliant, lacerating account of the play”. Not to be missed”
[FOGRA: Gounod’s Opera, “Romeo et Juliette”, Live from Barcelona on Tues, Feb 27th, at 7PM,brings us a welcome revival of a lovely opera and genuine lovers of the genre won’t want to miss it.}
(From Jim Ryan),