Check out the first reviews for STC’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:
Big Daddy is masterfully performed by Hugo Weaving, who although brings to the role nothing that is unexpected, demonstrates his unparalleled stage presence and a searing conviction that absolutely captivates. The exaggerated theatricality he employs is riveting, with a psychological accuracy that allows us to perceive complicated dimensions of human nature, as we luxuriate in the sumptuousness of his delivery.
Weaving is superb as the gruff, autocratic Big Daddy, exuding a rough impatience and aggression, particularly now that he believes he has a new lease of life and can stop taking orders from others, especially Big Mama on whom he unleashes a withering, brutally unkind attack. And yet he is touchingly solicitous for Brick, accepting of his son’s possible homosexuality, trying hard to help him come to terms with himself. Weaving’s performance fills the stage. He feels truly dangerous at times, while suggesting conflicting emotions within, and genuine concern for Brick.
Hugo Weaving gets top billing as Big Daddy, the dying plantation patriarch, but only gets around an hour of the three on stage to strut his stuff. Boy, though, does he strut. He starts act two at a monstrous 10 and keeps it revving in the red throughout, igniting fireworks through sheer presence.
His Big Daddy is a threatening, boastful, big-hearted, mean-spirited powerhouse, with a ruthless will to live. Weaving makes this planation-owning Mississippi patriarch seem to explode from the pages of the Old Testament, and bend the world to his will.
His acting conveys a primal ferocity that explains both Big Daddy’s business success and why those around him cower in his shadow. It is a monstrous performance embodying devilish lusts, gloating survival, malevolent resentments and raucous good-humour. Weaving shoves you hard against the back of your seat and, were he matched by the rest, this would have been riveting theatre.
The great Hugo Weaving plays Big Daddy, the family patriarch who, on his 65th birthday, is reckoning with what might soon be the end of his life. Weaving is a full-throated roar in the role, and he tears through the script with conviction.
Hugo Weaving is particularly marvelous as the overbearing patriarch Big Daddy. Weaving’s storied career playing sympathetic, complex, morally grey and even memorably evil characters on stage and screen should leave no-one in any anticipatory doubt over his suitability to do well with one of the great “multifaceted bastard” roles of the theatre. Seeing is believing, however, and as good as the idea of Weaving playing this role may have been in your head, the reality is even more astounding.
If you haven’t engaged with the play for a while or primarily familiar with the sanitised film adaptation, you might be forgiven for misremembering the character as being almost wholly repellent, a tyrannical bully awash with loathing for his family and obsession with his own mortality. Big Daddy is all this, but perhaps easy to forget is that he not only loves Brick (albeit with blatant favouritism) but is surprisingly tolerant and accepting of his son’s potential homosexuality, considering the cultural context.
The fact that this tolerance falls on deaf ears, unable to penetrate the haze of Brick’s alcohol-numbed loathing of himself and all those around him does not negate the fact that the hand of acceptance is offered. However small a sliver of human decency it may be in this otherwise loathsome man, Weaving plays it with such earnest compassion that it acts as a key to unlock his whole performance as one of superior texture and nuance.
Hugo Weaving dominates the production as he inhabits the role of Big Daddy. He exudes the power and position that the self-made millionaire. He ensures that even though the audience know Big Daddy’s real fate, he never really gains the sympathy that kind of diagnosis would expect due to how venomous he is towards his wife of 40 years. He makes it clear that Big Daddy is a man of a different time, staying in a marriage to a woman he can no longer stand, but also adding the surprise of a seemingly progressive and understanding father willing to accept if his son really did love another man.