(Alfred Hickling’s article appeared in The Guardian, 9/19.)
Tennessee Williams’s aim in writing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was to capture “that cloudy, flickering, effervescent interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis”. This joint production by Northern Stage, the Royal and Derngate and Manchester’s Royal Exchange certainly delivered that, though hardly in the manner the author intended.
Shortly before the press performance, Daragh O’Malley, who was due to play the central role of Big Daddy, was taken ill, and the production’s director, James Dacre stepped in to read in the part. It was a bold choice, highlighting the professionalism of the cast in rising to the challenge and shedding light on the troubled development of Williams’s play.
The playwright had reluctantly revised the work at the insistence of the original director, Elia Kazan, but was never satisfied with the suggestion that Big Daddy – the crude, bullish cotton patriarch who refuses to accept he is riddled with cancer – should make a conciliatory final appearance. The published text contains the alternative versions of the third act (the recent West Yorkshire Playhouse revival hedged its bets by incorporating elements of both).