Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Finty Williams’

Revivals of this 1961 Tennessee Williams play don’t come along as often as most of his other classics. I first saw it at the NT in 1992 with Alfred Molina as Shannon, then again in the West End in 2005, where Woody Harrelson took the lead. Now its Clive Owen’s turn, with American Anna Gunn and our own Lia Williams as the women in his life at this moment in time. It has TW’s usual biographical strands, with a predatory man who exploits young women adding a timeliness.

Rae Smith’s extraordinary set creates a mountain lodge with four shacks, palm trees, walkways and a mountain! It conjures up the tropical coastal location in Mexico where Irish American ex-priest, now tour guide, brings a group of ladies from a Baptist college in Texas. The tour isn’t going well; he’s already accused of sex with one of the underage girls and they are refusing to stay at the lodge run by Shannon’s friend and sometime lover Maxine, recently widowed.

It’s late season in 1940 and the only other guests are four German tourists who sing Nazi songs and rejoice in the bombing of London! Then New England lady Hannah, an artist, and her 97-year-old grandfather, ‘America’s oldest living poet’, turn up. Maxine is reluctant to accommodate them, but succumbs under pressure from Shannon, who is clearly attracted to Hannah. Their problems and their demons emerge and unfold on this one night, with sexual tension between Shannon and both Maxine and Hannah, but in very different ways, and an unspoken rivalry between the two women.

Clive Owen seemed to take a short while to get into his character, but was soon commanding the stage. Anna Gunn and Lia Williams are both excellent in their very different roles, Gunn as feisty promiscuous Maxine and Williams as gentle serene Hannah. There’s terrific support from Julian Glover as Hannah’s grandfather and Finty Williams as Mrs Fellowes, the church group leader who takes no prisoners. In addition to Rae Smith’s set, James Macdonald’s fine production boasts some great lighting from Neil Austin and an atmospheric soundscape by Max Pappenheim.

Good to see it again, done so well.

Read Full Post »

Playwright Hugh Whitemore, who died this year, was better known as a TV writer, but between 1977 and 1987 he wrote four outstanding plays, all factually based, of which this was the second. The original West End production 35 years ago starred Judi Dench and her husband Michael Williams and ran for almost a year. This first major London revival at the Menier sees their daughter Finty Williams take on her mother’s role.

It’s set in 1960 in the Ruislip home of the Jackson family, a model of suburban ordinariness. Their best friends and neighbours the Krogers are apparently Canadians; the two families are very fond of each another. One day a man called Stewart enters the Jacksons’ lives and persuades them to allow surveillance from their upstairs bedroom. As the surveillance period is lengthened, Stewart feels obliged to feed them information about the reasons for it, until they discover it’s their best friends who are being watched. The highly-strung wife Barbara struggles to reconcile the reality of the warm friendship with the likelihood the Krogers are spies.

The period feel is extraordinary, from Paul Farnsworth’s brilliantly detailed design – the depth of a suburban house the width of the theatre, furniture, fittings and everyday items spot on – to the pitch perfect performances, with behaviour very much of the time. Chris Larkin and Finty Williams play the empathetic Jackson’s, the heart of the play, beautifully and Macy Nyman is terrific as their daughter Julie. Jasper Britton navigates the role of Stewart from gently persuasive to assertively determined extremely well. Tracy-Ann Oberman is excellent as brassy but loving Helen Kroger.

The attention to period detail and suspense does slow the pace, but I felt it just about sustained its length. In many ways its an old-fashioned evening, but Hannah Chissick’s impeccable production brings out all the psychological and emotional impact of this true story and makes it a very worthwhile revival.

Read Full Post »

When my former employer reached its 150th anniversary, it commissioned a rather dry book about its history. The Langham Hotel had a much better idea – to commission a play to be staged inside it. Defibrilator Theatre had its second run of Tennessee Williams’ Hotel Plays at the Langham, so they were the obvious choice.

Playwright Ben Ellis’ big idea is to stage three ‘acts’ (I’d prefer to call them playlets as they don’t really constitute one play) in three periods in three spaces and it works well. We start in the present with a pop diva (played by a real life former pop singer, Hannah Spearritt) throwing a strop, refusing to take the helicopter to the arena where 20,000 fans are waiting. Her manager works hard to change her mind. In the second play, we’re in the early 70’s and BBC radio have relocated studios from across the road. An American businessman (and Vietnam veteran) and his wife are waiting to be interviewed on air and we learn of the motivation behind his business and their relationship with one another. In the final play, we’re back in 1871 with the French emperor and his wife in exile, contemplating a return to Paris or a journey to Vietnam.

There are connections between them – Vietnam, margarine (!) and ‘the armour’ that gives the evening its title – but they are three miniatures that come together to provide a satisfying, if brief and fairly expensive, experience. I could have done without the chirpy ‘concierge’s explanations and excuses, which were a bit contrived and detracted a little from the experience, and the journeys from the lower ground floor to the 3rd, 7th and back again became a bit tiresome. The six performances, though, were very impressive. Thomas Craig was well matched with Hannah Spearritt in the first play. Simon Darwin and Siubhan Harrison were intense and captivating as the American couple. Sean Murray and Finty Williams were appropriately regal and graceful as the French royals.

In The Hotel Plays (which I saw and enjoyed in its first run elsewhere (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/the-hotel-plays) we were scattered in the rooms like flies on the wall, which I preferred to the seating supplied here, but director / producer James Hillier has done a good job staging these plays and the complimentary bubbles were very welcome (though messing us around by trying to change time slots for no obvious reason wasn’t!).

Read Full Post »