Posts Tagged ‘Janet Henfrey’

Tennessee Williams was very prolific in his 47 active playwriting years and amongst his output were more than 70 short plays. The three showcased here were all written in a three year period that ended just two years before his first big hit, Glass Menagerie, and the central character of each is a familiar TW face – a troubled young man.

The youngest young man appears in the first play, Summer at the Lake. He’s living with, and stifled by, his mother, who doesn’t know what to do with him. Her hisband’s a travelling musician and his tour has been cut back, which limits her finances and her options. In the end, the boy solves the problem.

In the second play, Auto-da-fe, we have a young man working in the post office and living at home, with a dominant mother again. It revolves around a piece of open post he intercepts and takes a strange moralistic turn. I found this one the most difficult.

The Strangest Kind of Romance was the meatiest and most satisfying of the three, with its 45 minute running time allowing more narrative and character development. This time a young man takes a room in a lodging house, whose landlady also gets him a job. He adopts his predecessor’s cat (beautifully played by Bella!). Things go wrong at work, he disappears and is replaced by another lodger, a boxer, then he returns….

Nikesh Patel is excellent as the young boy / man in all three, believable in roles up to 15 or so years different in age. Justine Mitchell is very good as both smothering mother(s) and predatory landlady, particularly the latter. Sam Cox is a very edgy boxer, an unusual character (even for TW!), who seems to be playing younger than his age. The cast is completed by Janet Henfrey in two small roles.

They are staged, without breaks, in a traverse setting with three steps down to a long, narrow pit with a giant frame that moves along the traverse. I wasn’t entirely convinced this stylised staging, with a brooding soundscape, served TW as well as a more naturalistic setting might, but it certainly created tension and atmosphere and the plays gripped throughout.

This is a showcase for the Genesis Foundation future directors award winner Finn Beames and when you look at who came before you find mature talents like Rufus Norris, Carrie Cracknell, Matthew Dunster, Natalie Abrahami and John Fulljames – a list that says a lot about its value.


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