Casual misogyny: Belvoir’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

MAGGIE: You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.
BRICK: Then jump off the roof, Maggie. Jump off it. Cats jump off roofs and land uninjured. Do it. Jump.

It’s one of the core plays in the American dramatic canon, and yet there’s something distinctly unsettling about Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Simon Stone at Belvoir. Written in 1955, the play is about a family on a Mississippi plantation whose magnate, Big Daddy, is dying, drawing everyone into the maelstrom. Described as “a powerful social critique of family breakdown, gender roles and relationships,” it is about the end of an era and the next beginning, a portrait of two generations, “one [that] doesn’t want to die, [while] the other feels crowded out, confused, and desperate to inherit whatever it can get before it’s too late.” But like its fellow plays in the canon – Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire – it is also a deeply unsettling, troubling, problematic play, not least because of its portrayal, characterisation and function of women.


An education: STC's Mrs Warren's Profession

Although written in 1893, George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession wasn’t publically performed until 1925, “when members of English society could no longer pretend that their world was the epitome of true respectability and elegance.” And while this might, perhaps, seem strange to a modern audience, in the 1890s Shaw’s famously strong socialist opinions were deemed unsuitable for polite society. Originally classified as an ‘Unpleasant Play’ by Shaw himself, it could be read – seen, even – as a study of prostitution, and its aim “to shew the prostitution is not the prostitute’s fault but the fault of a society,” as Shaw wrote to a colleague. Yet, Mrs Warren’s Profession is “no more a work “about” prostitution as a social crime than [Ibsen’s] Ghosts is “about” syphilis as a communicable disease.”
After their misconceived Pygmalion in 2012, I was at first wary of the Sydney Theatre Company’s choice to produce another of Shaw’s plays. Very much like Oscar Wilde (and Tom Stoppard on an good day), Shaw’s writing is filled to the brim with dialogue and scenes which positively sparkle with the fire of intelligence, wit and a playful subversiveness; whereas 2012’s Pygmalion found it early only to lose it in the Sydney Theatre’s emptiness, Mrs Warren’s Profession had it from the start, kept it and let it grow until its conclusion, two-and-a-half hours later. It’s to director Sarah Giles’ credit that this production brings out the tensions apparent in Shaw’s play, the core distinctions between mother and daughter, young and old, male and female, father and son; wealth and poverty, virgin and whore, independence and dependence, morality and depravity, marriage and a career. By re-examining these oppositions anew Giles, along with her cast and team, has created a fresh, vibrant and I’m almost tempted to call it a modern interpretation of one of the English language’s greatest dramatist’s early works.


Sarah Blasko - I Awake

Sometimes you think you know a song. You hear it one day, and wonder if you really knew the song in the first place, you find something new in it to fall in love with. Sarah Blasko’s music is a bit like this, in a way: you think you know her songs from her albums – the melodies, the instrumentations, the little adornments and quirks, the rhythms, the timing between tracks – but then you hear them performed live and they’re completely new all over again.
Back in 2010, my sister and I went to Blasko’s As Day Follows Night concert at the Enmore Theatre. I’m pretty sure it was the first ‘gig’ that I could remember going to. There was something about the album, the songs – Blasko herself, even – that seemed irresistible, enchanting, hypnotic, unfathomable, and seeing and hearing her songs refashioned on tour made me appreciate the album on a deeper, more intangible, more inexpressible way.


Pushed too far: Belvoir’s This Heaven

Tonight the night is dirty and heavy, and the moon is swollen and bright. Everyone knows that on nights like this, things happen.

The streets of Mount Druitt are tinderbox dry, a powderkeg waiting to ignite. All it needs is the reason, a spark.
Nakkiah Lui’s This Heaven is about a young indigenous woman whose father died in custody at Mount Druitt Police Station. The police were found ‘not guilty’ and were fined; the family got $9,000, and no-one is allowed to speak about it. The young woman, Sissy, is about to become a lawyer but the law can wait; tonight is a time to grieve, to make their voices heard, to push, to fight, to take a stand. Tonight, things will happen.
I’ve spent the past two days thinking about this play, and I’m no closer to articulating my thoughts on it. Because it was so blunt, so unavoidably angry and passionate, so heartfelt and real; because it happened, because it happens, because it will happen. Again. And again.