Choosing Death or mendacity in Andrew’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Brick broke his legs attempting to relive his glory days – running hurdles on the high school track, drunk at two in the morning. But that’s not why he needs a crutch. He needs his crutch to kill his disgust. To make it peaceful in his head again. Alcohol is his crutch and Brick is an alcoholic. Drinking helps Brick deal with his overwhelming feelings of guilt and betrayal and love and hate. He is desperately looking for the man he used to be, back when he could throw a football and run. Back when Skipper was still alive…

His indifferent detachment adds to his pensive charm – Brick, the broody young man, rejecting privilege and the mundane existence demanded from him by his uptight Southern society.  But despite him still having his looks, it is not easy to love an alcoholic.

It is not easy to love someone who cannot love themselves.

It makes Maggie, Brick’s southern belle wife, feel a lot like a cat stuck on a hot tin roof – nervous and uncomfortable. The house beneath her has been set on fire and the flames are growing rapidly. But Brick refuses to deal with the heat. He simply steps outside the house and closes the door behind him, leaving Maggie the cat in a deeply difficult situation.

Benedict Andrews masterfully retells the classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. His darker subversive take on the Tennessee Williams’ production, highlights the deep cracks in a patriarchal society that result in emotions being buried and the difficulty for masculine identities to accept and show love.

But suppressed emotions eventually become toxic and consume you from the inside. The production is a scathing critique of high-class Southern society which prioritises the accumulation of wealth, endorses homophobia and oppresses and degrades women. Nevertheless, Maggie the Cat refuses to jump off the hot tin roof, adamant that her love can endure.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is an exploration of the drama, power dynamics and greed within a wealthy southern family. Big Daddy is a self-made man who owns a plantation home in the Mississippi Delta. As his health starts to decline, his son and eccentric daughter-in-law, with their tribe of their ‘no-necked children’, start itching to get their hands on their inheritance. As does Maggie, desperate to conceive a child with her husband, Brick, Big Daddy’s youngest son.

But Maggie and Brick are grappling a crisis of their own – the death of Skipper and all the secrets and suppressed histories that emerge through Brick’s journey of self-acceptance.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’s screening in Olive Schreiner Hall was well received. Andrews managed to retell a classic story in a way that captured both fans of the original and earlier productions, as well as young audiences, experiencing the play for the first time. It remains a relevant and relatable story and does so while being a captivating experience, making three hours feel like a minute.

By Thandiwe Matyobeni

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