by Tennessee Williams.

Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 24 November 2012.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed 2.30pm & Sat 3.30pm.
Audio-described 17 Nov 3.30pm.
BSL Signed 23 Nov
Captioned 15 Nov.
Post-show Discussion 8 Nov.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.

TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 November 2012.

Powerfully played drama of the deep, sad South.
Even below par there’s power in Tennessee Williams’ writing, here inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus, the famous musician for whom life lost meaning when his wife died, causing his visit to the underworld to reclaim her.

In Williams’ mid-century Mississippi, Orpheus is itinerant young Luke, guitar lovingly kept with him – though the plangent sounds come from Trevor Michael Georges, whose Black American also engages in dance rituals with local young wild-card Carol Cutrere. Luke’s only loyalty is to the Blues greats named on his guitar. But Lady Torrance sees him as an escape from her entrapment in this stale redneck community. Her husband’s sick and old, yet still belligerent, as are Carol’s husband and the other men.

Mostly the wives sit self-righteously around, in a pointless mix of drink and malice. Lady, a Sicilian, became stuck when her father, his wine-garden behind their general store a haven she’s trying to revive, was murdered for breaking the local racist code. Thewomen flopping heavily, with puzzled or alarmed expressions, or the men furious with suppressed violence at anyone who’s not in their own mode, represent this township; the life, dripping with frustration, comes from the misfits.

Lady’s fate is bound by the Orpheus myth, but there could be hope for Jodie McNee’s younger Carol, insolent, sullen and dangerous, her face defiantly mixing glaring white makeup and black-ringed outlines. Lady is older than her Orpheus by around a generation, but once the opening frictions of employer and shop-hand are past, Imogen Stubbs deftly shows her returning to life with energy and spirit. Growing desperation only makes her swifter and more determined. A final realisation about her father’s murder adds shock and a sense of incipient grief.

Paul Wills’ design shows a spacious shop, darkly-coloured in tune with the town and in contrast to the central characters, its huge staircase suggesting the power looming in Lady’s husband and his like; underneath lurks an unassertive changing-room where Luke Norris’s fine Val lives in semi-concealment. In all, director Sarah Frankcom’s production admirably catches both the deadly environment and the individuals breaking for freedom.

Dolly Hamma: Claire Brown.
Beulah Binnings: Marjorie Yates.
Pee Wee Binnings: Ian Blower.
Dog Hamma: Harry Atwell.
Carol Cutrere: Jodie McNee.
Uncle Pleasant: Trevor Michael Georges.
Eva Temple: Olwen May.
Sister Temple: Sue McCormick.
Val Xavier: Luke Norris.
Vee Talbott: Alexandra Mathie.
Lady Torrance: Imogen Stubbs.
Jabe Lawrence: Mark Lewis.
Sheriff Talbott: Simon Wolfe.
Woman/Nurse Porter: Morag Siller.
David Cutrere: Christian Bradley.

Director: Sarah Frankcom.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Peter Rice.
Composer: Trevor Michael Georges.
Dialects: Mark Langley
Fights: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Eduard Lewis.

2012-11-08 13:42:54

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