by Tennessee Williams.

Salisbury Playhouse Malthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 20 March.
4th March to 20th March 2010 then tour until 8th May 2010

Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Thu-Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 18 March 2.30pm & 8pm.
BSL Signed 17 March.
Post-show Discussion 16 March.
Theatre Day 18 March 11.30am.
TICKETS: 01722 32033

then Tour to 8 May 2010.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
Review Mark Courtice 5 March 2010.

Neat, effective, deeply felt production.
It’s not only the clarity of Tennessee Williams’ vision (including that of his younger self), but also the charity of his portrayal of his mother and sister that has helped to make this “memory play” a classic of the modern stage.

It’s written as a memoir, with Tom Wingfield (Williams’ alter-ego) controlling the action, launching the next scene, notebook in hand. Here, however, it is Imogen Stubbs’ Amanda who is in charge. She’s determined to find a suitor for her daughter, and a career for her son. Williams’ clarity means we understand that, for all her efforts, her offspring will eventually fail to meet her ambitions.

Nonetheless, she will sell subscriptions to a ladies’ magazine, wake Tom up every morning, and inveigle gentlemen callers to supper if that’s what it takes. She is also rather good fun; her potty memories (all carefully burnished) and her bustling energy are attractive. She may wear the oddest clothes, but in this there is something of the glee of rifling the dressing-up box.

Amanda Wingfield can be played as one of the stage’s most monstrous women, self-deceiving, driven, self-obsessed. Here Stubbs finds Williams’ charity; as much as he seems horrified by the delusions of his mother and the difficulties of his sister, he also loves them, and it’s that loving view this honest, un-mawkish production captures.

Emma Lowndes and Kyle Soller handle with sensitivity and skill the central scene when Laura is left to get to know her “gentleman caller”; her brief emergence from the miserable cocoon of disability and social inadequacy is very touching, his astonished recognition of the dangers of being misunderstood sharply accurate.

Naomi Dawson’s economical set with skeletal staircases and platforms grows out of the cramped space in which the three live; a screen playing shadowy films of the period reflects Tom’s longing to escape to the cinema as home gets too suffocating.

The design – neat, effective and to the point – reflects Polly Teale’s production. Space is made for a complex tale told with genuine emotion and truthful acting.

Amanda Wingfield: Imogen Stubbs.
Tom: Patrick Kennedy.
Laura: Emma Lowndes.
The Gentleman Caller: Kyle Soller.

Director: Polly Teale.
Designer: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Music: Peter Salem.
Movement: Liz Ranken.

2010-03-11 09:25:03

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