by Daniel MacIvor.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 19 May 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Captioned 12 May.
Runs 1hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 April.
Way-down Tennessee in well-acted play.
It’s easy to see why playwright Daniel MacIvor couldn’t pass on this story – a late-life, post-talent yet still-famous Tennessee Williams travelling to Vancouver for the opening of a late play in revised form, minded by his former lover and meeting a Canadian rent-boy.
Yet the interest is anecdotal, hardly unleashing any surprises, unless it’s the coexistence of the old man with a much younger one aware of the age of AIDS. And MacIvor, while leaning on awareness of Williams, never mentions him by name. It’s not biography but a study in the Old Testament term Ichabod – ‘the glory has departed’.
Seeming sure the new version of his play will wow them in Canada, His Greatness makes a great fool of himself, relapsing into alcohol, flaunting his temperament, his anger with his long-term loyal attendant (and clearly former lover) indeterminate, with flashes of annoyance and elements of understood humour – no wonder Edward Albee’s Virginia Woolf? is tauntingly approved by the exasperated Assistant.
The Young Man brings a taunting self-confidence, calculatedly erotic, and – one of MacIvor’s touchier points – quickly acquires a taste for the Greatness’s drama (ironic, given the critics’ reported reaction to the Vancouver premiere). Toby Wharton has an apt mix of sexual knowingness and naivety in other matters.
The situation’s mediated by Russell Bentley’s unfailingly neat Assistant, who has fallen inevitably into the way of taking responsibility and doing the worrying which disguises the playwright’s practical ineptitude. He provides sense for his wayward boss, while controlling his own sensuality – he too finds the newcomer attractive – and supplying reality checks for the young man who believes he’s hopped straight into a new nest – being, as he believes, on the staff.
Bentley combines these in an economical performance that implies the years of living in His Greatness’s emotional shadow. And Matthew Marsh’s central performance has the right balance of self-indulgence, defiant rejection of a world he fears no longer loves or lionises him, and moments of humour.
It would be a good performance under normal circumstances; for someone who only saw the script ten days before opening it’s borderline remarkable.
The Assistant: Russell Bentley.
The Playwright: Matthew Marsh.
The Young Man: Toby Wharton.
Director: Ché Walker.
Designer: Jean-Marc Puissant.
Lighting: Arnim Friess.
Sound: Edward Lewis, Jude Malcomson.