Do you have any secrets? Is there anything you’ve been meaning to get off your chest? Already beginning with cliches and odd questions, I know. But have you ever asked yourself if there’s anything really hidden within the depths of your being, that you, and only you, know? As a seventeen year old girl with little to hide (and little wrongdoing to tarnish her reputation, might I add), this perhaps isn’t a question for me. However, we all have our little secrets, don’t we…
‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ is the reason I’m asking all of these ever so deep and ambiguous questions. Admittedly, I’ve never read the play (for the record, it is on my reading list). However, I have in fact seen a performance of Williams’ fantastic work and I do indeed study another one of his plays- ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’- as part of my A Level syllabus. Succeeding my recent mock interviews for university, plays were quite heavily discussed. Whilst it’s brilliant to read a play and analyse the depths of the playwright’s language, techniques and stage directions, there is nothing quite like seeing a play performed in all its glory. Personally, one cannot fully apprehend the significance of certain motifs, staging and lighting without such a visual aid. After all, plays were written to be performed!
I must begin by making clear that I am by no means aware of how obvious certain motifs and symbols are made in the written stage directions of the play itself, nor how explicit or subtle the implications are of such tools, within Williams’ written style. However, I must say that, most strikingly, props were key to my enthrallment with this performance. How can we ignore the most blindingly obvious prop throughout the play? Brick’s crutch. As a symbol of fragility, Brick’s crutch and his ankle injury, made it apparent that he was a broken man, both literally and metaphorically. However, expression of emotion for a closeted, homosexual male, growing up in the deep South, throughout the 20th Century, would have undoubtedly been a time of fear and despair, as Williams would’ve known all too well. Therefore, Brick’s internal and emotional deterioration manifests itself in the stereotypically masculine form of physicality. Unable to express oneself in the form of emotional catharsis, Brick’s internalised regret and perhaps even self-hatred, become apparent as the damage to his physical appearance embody the damage to that of his masculine ego, resulting either from his regret, stubbornness, and even his sexuality, which he may feel reduces his masculine status. Brick’s injured ankle, as exaggerated by the ever-so-obvious crutch, elevate this sense of vulnerability and fragility, without so explicitly indicating ‘my gay lover has died and it hurts a lot’ and ‘I regret not reassuring him on the phone’ (poor Brick, 😦 this actually breaks my heart). Brick, a symbol of mendacity, as well as rugged masculinity, juxtaposed with the highly relevant crutch prop, a symbol of weakness, vulnerability and dependency, effectively reduce Brick to a mere shell of a man, torn up and broken inside, unable to heal his wounds of regret and loss (and his broken heart, sorry I had to add that). That was much too dramatic of a description I feel, but it’s so damn emotional and I need to convey that…
Alternatively, the crutch itself may carry other implications. That’s okay, I’ll be the first one to address the elephant in the room; the crutch is a rather phallic object. If we take the crutch to be a symbol of sexual desire, rather than a representation of vulnerability, this prop becomes a great deal more significant. Maggie constantly exercises her domineering, manipulative powers over Brick, as the crutch embodies the barrier erected (no pun intended) in their relationship, and she sadistically grasps the opportunity to give and take the crutch as she pleases. In turn, she is able to defeat the physical barriers, in order to force Brick to satisfy her sexual desires and want of a child. However, her ability to remove such a physical barrier in no way diminishes the seemingly indestructible emotional walls, built even higher, following the death of Skipper. Alternatively, the removal of such a phallic prop also demonstrates Brick’s lack of sexual desire, towards women at least. This is further reinforced by the recurring symbol of Liquor and Alcoholism, which too act as a “crutch” to support Brick’s lack of emotional stability. Additionally, this heightens a sense of disillusionment, thus successfully aiding Brick’s conflicting emotions, with regards to his sexuality. This symbolic alcohol addiction removes Brick’s grasp on reality, which in turn parallels his loss of control over his emotions, as well as removing the reality of Skipper’s death, or at least the need to face it.
Finally, the staging was rather bare, with only a bed occupying down stage left. The effectively minimal staging allows the audience to focus on the bed alone, a symbol of sexual desire, or lack thereof. It is always present but never used for its apparent purpose (apparent for Maggie at least, beds are a symbol of sleep for me…). This serves as a forceful reminder of Maggie and Brick’s marriage, falling into deeper and deeper turmoil, as the irreparable damage of their relationship surfaces.
Perhaps humanity as a whole will always be prone to mendacity; perhaps mendacity is rooted in the lack of acceptance within society. Hopefully, our progressive 21st Century will encourage a greater sense of self acceptance. It’s also key to note that there is no wrong in mendacity. You are entitled to withhold any information you see fit for the protection of the self. I am aware that this hasn’t been the most gleeful of posts, but it’s most-certainly an important one. To end on a lighter note: if you could choose any prop to symbolise yourself, what would it be?
Side Note: I am extremely sorry for my inability to post last week. Since my return from South Africa, my life has been full throttle. Sometimes it feels as though I forget how to breathe. From revisions and mock exams, to university interview preparations, on top of balancing ongoing school work, my life has been extremely hectic. Also I’ll forewarn you now, I may be unable to post next week because I have a university interview on Monday, followed by a flight to Germany nearing the end of the week. I’ll see what I can do and hold tight for a potential travelling update (yes, I’m quite the little explorer, I know). Wishing you all a happy Thursday!!