SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER and MR PARADISE
by Tennessee Williams.
Theatre by the Lake Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 4 November 2015.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 August.
Tense, finely performed revival of an intimate, claustrophobic play.
In this 1958 play Tennessee Williams revisits familiar territory with stark brutality. It’s a personal play with political ramifications – rich old Mrs Venable wants to protect her dead son’s memory by silencing his cousin Catharine and asks Dr Cukrowicz (‘Dr Sugar’, as he explains, in English) to lobotomise the young woman. She offers funding for his medical research as a sweetener.
The playwright’s guilt over his sister Rose’s lobotomy, reflected years before in The Glass Menagerie, ensures references to the operation carry a sour note. As for money’s power to influence scientific judgement, there’s hopeful ambiguity in the doctor’s final statement, Ben Ingles speaking with the hesitancy his sentence suggests as he puts professional judgment before prospective profit.
Before then, he and we have heard prosecution and defence. Mrs Venable is concerned no money should go to the poor relation; in Mary Papadima’s taut production Kate Layden suggests an intensity of fear and hatred beneath her polite, yet insistent surface. It’s the opposite of the open, nervy fear in Emily Tucker’s Catherine, guarded by a nun from the nearby asylum and threatened with removal to a cheaper state-run institution.
Mid-century medical science looms large, as the doctor injects the nervous Catharine with a truth-drug, which explains the distant manner of her account. It’s here the wild horror of events appear, implicating Mrs Venable in the sexual adventures that led to her son’s destruction.
The heart of the play’s darkness lies in this revelation, and it emerges with a gentle, drug-induced voice that also suggests the animal violence which can be unleashed in humanity, thanks to a performance that crowns Tucker’s fine and varied work in this Keswick season.
Originally part of a double-bill – a ‘something unspeakable’ alongside Williams’ Something Unspoken – the play here is preceded by a 20-minute dialogue, Mr Paradise, between a discontented old writer and an enthusiastic student of his work. Charlotte Mulliner catches the student’s awed interest in the writer, behind whose pseudonym Peter Macqueen reveals in sad, gravelly tones the sense of defeat in a forgotten author who has left his inspiration – probably permanently – behind.
Mr Paradise: Peter Macqueen.
The Girl: Charlotte Mulliner.
Suddenly Last Summer
Mrs Holly: Cate Hamer.
Dr Cukrowicz: Ben Ingles.
George: Richard Keightley.
Mrs Venable: Kate Layden.
Sister Felicity: Polly Lister.
Miss Foxhill: Charlotte Mulliner.
Catharine: Emily Tucker.
Director: Mary Papadima.
Designer/Costume: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound/Composer: Dan Steele.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.