Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

24 Feb

It’s difficult to say anything intelligent about sex. Fortunately, it’s easy to say something interesting.

Is that just the way we’re made?

To prepare for a Tennessee Williams’ play, I drank a bottle and a half of bourbon, imagined men’s eyes boring through my clothes, and had my date rip open his shirt while yelling ‘VERONICAAAA!!!!’

It must have worked, because I enjoyed Simon Stone’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

I enjoyed the performances, especially Alan Dukes as Gooper and Lynette Curran as Big Mama.

I enjoyed the staging, with the turntable working both as a source of humour and tension.

I went away with plenty to think about. Like, how am I going to get me one of those turntables?

The world of Williams is one in which people are driven by animal passions, find that difficult to accept, and so lie to themselves.

This myth accounts for much of the popularity of Williams (that, and the fact he writes like angel.)

It’s a myth that well serves the needs of contemporary Australia. It tells us that we don’t have to live ethical lives. Or, more precisely, that the only moral demand upon us is the one to be truthful. We’re allowed to selfish. In fact, it’s natural.  The only crime is to pretend it’s not the way things are meant to be.

I’m probably talking in ridiculously general terms. (Perhaps I’m being passionately inaccurate.) But this myth is the meta-myth of the plays – the assumptions about  life so intrinsic to the work, that go so deep, that we have difficulty recognising them. Is this what makes  a great playwright? Someone who writes so well that we take their vision of life to be the thing itself?

Of course, in 1955, when it premiered, this play may have been valued for very different reasons. For example, its acceptance of homosexuality was probably groundbreaking. And who could pretend that issue has been resolved?

And let me use that idea to further illustrate my point. If we truly were the passionate creatures that inhabit the Williams’ world, why does it takes so long to resolve issues of obvious injustice? We are yet to legalise homosexual marriage. So many of us are supposedly passionate about it. Yet what have we personally done about it?

That is why the myth is attractive. We use it to tell ourselves that our self obsession is exciting, that as we pay our mortgages and perfect our Pad Thais we’re doing something thrilling.

We’re not.

Let us be truly passionate.

Veronica Kaye

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Belvoir, then Theatre Royal, til April 21

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