by Tennessee Williams.

New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 15 October.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm.
Audio-described 15 Oct 2.15pm.
Captioned 11 Oct.
Post-show Discussion 11 Oct.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.

then Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street OL1 3SW 20 October-5 November 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 26, 29 Oct, 5 Nov 2.30pm.
Audio-described 2 Nov.
BSL Signed 4 Nov.
TICKETS: 01604 624 2829.

Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 October.

Production not quite at home with theatre or play.
Amanda Wingfield seems a practical woman, entering from the street in sensible dress to the small family home in urban 1930s America. She’s a single parent (husband long gone, as described in one of the play’s few humorous lines) bringing up her wayward son Tom, in a dead-end shoe factory job, and shy Laura, supposedly taking a secretarial course.

It’s a struggle, Amanda setting aside her family pride with her home-work, tele-sales of magazine subscriptions, accumulating down-the-line rebuffs. And in Sarah Punshon’s revival for Newcastle-under-Lyme (in-the-round) and Oldham (on a proscenium stage) Louise Bangay show Amanda as resilient rather than the overbearing monster she can be.

It’s only in the second act that her dreams and delusions become fully apparent, as Amanda’s memories of her southern-belle past come out. She arranges the poor home elegantly for the ‘gentleman caller’ Tom’s contrived to bring from work, and appears in an elaborate old dress as inappropriate as her illusory dreams of her daughter’s social success.

Michael Holt’s set certainly gives the sense of poverty in the Wingfield home, though it looks contrived on the New Vic’s stage – maybe the floor sections will work better in Oldham. And maybe there the token representation of the urban neighbourhood, a hanging ladder that’s never used, will integrate better into the play’s world.

Not that such matters would matter – or even be noticed – if the playing were more consistent. James Joyce gives Tom a tolerable certainty, though there’s little sense of yearning to escape, and Harry Livingstone’s Gentleman Caller is convincingly less upfront and awkward than often played.

Yet, in a play where the female characters are explored most in emotional terms, here they seem more superficial. In Bangay’s case, the accent can lead to lack of clarity over what words are being said when the actor is facing another direction (this won’t be a problem at Oldham). But also, there’s limited digging into Amanda’s emotional complexity, beyond initial irritation at her daughter.

Nor does Katie Moore’s Laura go far into the psychological damage accompanying her physical limp. The result is a competent but uninvolving evening.

Amanda Wingfield: Louise Bangay.
Tom Wingfield: James Joyce.
Jim O’Connor: Harry Livingstone.
Laura Wingfield: Katie Moore.

Director: Sarah Punshon.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer: Alastair Broadley.
Voice coach: Mark Langley.
Assistant director: Asia Osborne.

2011-10-11 01:25:34

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