by Tennessee Williams.
Charing Cross Theatre The Arches Villiers Street WC2N 6NL To 1 September 2012.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 930650.
Review: William Russell 23 August
Released from the confines of the tiny King’s Head Theatre stage, where it opened in July to acclaim, Robert Chevara’s production of this 1977 play really takes flight. It worked well enough in Islington, but the action, in a run down New Orleans lodging house, suffered from an excess of beds allegedly in different rooms too close together. Now it gets space to breathe.
A young would-be writer, a suppressed homosexual, played with exactly the right self-centred callousness of the would-be artist by Tom Ross-Williams, finds himself in an attic room surrounded by the sort of people who inhabit plays by Tennessee Williams – a faded belle with a muscle-bound hunk in tow, an ageing homosexual dying from consumption, two old biddies down on their luck starving to death, a hustler, a drifter and an eccentric landlady who is slowly going mad – just plain southern folks in other words.
The play was a flop on Broadway in 1977, but fared rather well in London the following year, and in its first revival here works extremely well. Helen Sheals is suitably baroque as the landlady, Mrs Wire, and Samantha Coughlan is moving as the belle down on her luck seeking solace with her toy-boy bouncer Tye, the well built Paul Standell.
It is not one of Williams’ better plays – there is no real plot and it degenerates into a series of playlets involving the various characters who surround the young writer, all of whom we have met before in a Williams play. The central character’s development is not sufficiently delineated, his escape at the end being inevitable from the start, so that he does not really hold the ingredients together.
But there are some terrific roles – David Whitworth is superb as the old, predatory, dying queen coughing up blood and cracking some splendid bitchy jokes the while – even if, at times, one is reminded of Noel Coward’s lines about “New Orleans where the wrought iron screens are frightfully overwrought.” This is a play which deserved a fresh look and the result, while minor Williams, is well worth seeing.
Jane: Samantha Coughlan.
Mrs Wire: Helen Sheals.
Nursie: Eva Fontaine.
Mary Maude: Anna Kirke.
Sky/Photographer/Hustler: Jack McMillan.
Miss Carrie: Hildegard Neil.
The Writer: Tom Ross-Williams.
Tye: Paul Standell.
Nightingale/Judge: David Whitworth.
Director: Robert Chevara.
Designer: Nicolai Hart Hansen.
Lighting: Seth Rook Williams.
Sound: Lee Davies.
Costume: Jonathan Lipman.