Darth Vader does Tennessee Williams screamed the headlines as the sell out Broadway all black production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof hit London. And yes as soon as James Earl Jones opens his mouth it is clear the voice of the Sith Lord has indeed landed, but that’s were any resemblance to Star Wars ends.
Here it is a family at war rather than the galactic empire. In the Deep South Big Daddy (Jones) has his family gathered round for what could be his final birthday. In the bedroom son Brick (Adrian Lester) had turned to the bottle instead of his wife – over the ensuing three hours the family falls apart as things are revealed that perhaps should have remained hidden.
Much has been made of the all black casting but it doesn’t matter a jot – what is needed in COAHTR is a strong connection between frustrated Maggie and Brick and between Brick and Big Daddy and its in these scenes that this production truly turns up the heat. The Act One scenes between Lester and Sanna Lathan (Maggie) are almost too painful to watch as their marriage teeter on the edge of collapse, and just when you think things couldn’t get any more emotional Act two sees Lester and Jones go head to head in one of the most powerful and emotionally gut renching father and son scenes ever to have graced the stage. Any wannabe actors should be made to study these performances for an acting master class. When the likes of Sir Ian Mckellen go on record stating this scene should filmed for future generations you have to agree.
If there is one criticism for this production it is you never get a sense of the oppressive Southern heat that drives the action to boiling point, I know it was a cold January in London but I never sensed the humidity of the southern states.
It’s a limited run in London but one that will be remembered for many years – not because of skin colour but the strength of performances