Sienna Miller and Jack O'Connell returned to the London stage last night in a brand new revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The Young Vic production, directed by Benedict Andrews, opened at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, and received generally positive reviews from the critics.
Dominic Cavendish (The Telegraph, four stars) said he has never seen a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof “that goes at it with such kit-off abandon” – a feeling shared amongst most of the critics. Cavendish goes on to say Miller “confirms she’s not just a pretty feline face” adding “her Margaret is a hideously plausible portrait of a woman putting on a brave face to hold back teary desolation”. Ann Treneman (The Times, four stars) says the play needs to sizzle, and “Miller provides exactly that in the first half”.
Cavendish says he was “ready to write this off as a summer filler”, but it’s a "well-acted, stylishly presented” production.
Not all the critics would necessarily agree. Quenitin Letts (Daily Mail, three stars) says “there is much shouting and smashing of furniture… the stage is reduced to a terrible mess” which, he adds “proves my pet theory that a messy stage is evidence of a struggling director”. Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out, three stars) says Andrews is a “gutsy” choice for the production, but the West End "doesn't seem like his natural environment”.
Natasha Tripney (The Stage, three stars) says the production “never finds its click”, but finds some relief during the scenes between O’Connell and Colm Meaney. Cavendish also branded Meaney’s performance as Big Daddy “terrific”. But while Holly Williams (WhatsOnStage, two stars) hailed Meaney as “excellent”, she echoes Tripney adding the show “too often this show simply fails to ignite”.
Many of the reviews mention Jack O’Connell performing much of the production in the buff from the off, but there were mixed reactions about his performance. Cavendish said he is “increasingly a Hollywood contender”, whereas Letts believes his costume (or lack off) was “rather more impressive than his Mississippi accent”.
Magda Willi’s set is described as a “sleek black space that looks like a funeral parlour, surrounded by dull gold walls” by Lukowski, who also believed the play gets stronger towards the second half. “There are some beautiful moments, especially towards the end: a sort of quiet, unsettling chaos…”
Most the critics seemed to agree. Williams says “the interplay with the wider family bringing more variation and nuance”, and Tripney adds the relatively well-judged scene” between Meany and O’Connell is where things start to come together.