by Tennessee Williams adapted by Moisés Kaufman.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 4 July 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 June.
Atmospheric story reaches the stage, if not screen as intended.
Life’s unkind to forces boxing-champ Ollie Olsen. If he could have found a cab home after a night on the tiles he’d not have been in a drunken car-smash with two comrades. They die; Ollie, lucky or not, lives but with an amputated arm. Not good for a boxer.
Within a week of leaving hospital, uninsured and with no trade he’s drifted into poverty and become involved in the gay sex-scene active behind park trees as in cheap lodgings and penthouses around New Orleans. The cast-list for Moisés Kaufman’s stage adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ unproduced screenplay emphasises the drift in a life where no-one Ollie meets has a name. They’re either hiding secrets or battening on others’ poverty.
When Ollie objects to his mutilation being used for titillation in a porn-film being made aboard a yacht, the woman he’s acting alongside – who suffers the greater humiliation – pleads with him to continue because she’s desperate for the $200 it pays.
It summarises the self-respect he bitterly maintains, right to the point of execution, when he asks the many letters he’s been sent go with him to the electric-chair, as the marks of appreciation absent from the meetings in a life increasingly organised by gay pimp Cherry.
This tough existence comes wrapped in Williams’ mist of sad romance, of aspiration knocked-about by circumstance. At its centre Ollie Olsen is, as Tom Varey shows in an acquiescence interrupted by moments of anger, living a necessary lie around others’ fantasies while looking to maintain the core of his identity. Why can’t the world just leave me be might sum it up, as so often with Williams’ central characters.
While Olsen becomes bruised in emotion as he is battered in body the rest of the world emerges into transient focus before disappearing back into a misty dream, a sense increased by the near-constant quiet volume of a demi-monde speaking low its hints at dangerous passions, and emphasised by Kaufman retaining for several scenes the firm stage directions that build a hostile city-life played against smoke and mirrors on Alistair Turner’s simple yet mood-invoking set.
Guard/Willy/Sailor/Sean: Peter Hannah.
Sam/Sailor/Young Man/Cherry/Bartender/Divinity Student: Joe Jameson.
Stripper/Nurse/Girl in the French Quarter/Mrs Wire/Lila: Georgia Kerr.
Middle-Aged Man/Announcer/Lester/Chaplain/Yachtsman/Warden: James Tucker.
Ollie Olsen: Tom Varey.
Director: Josh Seymour.
Designer/Costume: Alistair Turner.
Lighting: Joshua Pharo.
Sound: Helen Atkinson.
Movement: John Ross.
Dialect coach: Tim Charrington.