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Posts Tagged ‘Luke Mullins’

In addition to almost forty full-length plays, Tennessee Williams wrote more than seventy one-act plays. I know I will never see them all, but I grab every opportunity I get, but I’ve still only seen a quarter of them. I enjoyed both of these, but the second one in particular was fascinating.

The first in the pairing, Something Unspoken, was written in 1958, the same year as Suddenly Last Summer, the year after Orpheus Descending and the year before Sweet Bird of Youth, all of which have had high profile stagings in the last two years. He wasn’t writing one-acters because he’d run out of steam; they were scattered throughout his career. It concerns Cornelia, a rich southern belle, living with Grace, her secretary / companion of fifteen years. As was the norm at that time, the true nature of their relationship is ambiguous, even buried. Cornelia is preoccupied with her place in society, and in particular the ladies association she aspires to lead, perhaps more so that her relationship.

The second play, And Tell Sad Stories Of The Deaths Of Queens, was originally written in 1957 but re-worked over the next five years. It was TW’s only openly gay play and had it been performed or published then, probably the first openly gay play of all, but it wasn’t staged until 2004 or published until 2005, more than twenty years after his death. It revolves around a wealthy New Orleans design shop and property owner known as Candy.

Since his partner of eighteen years left him, Candy is alone and lonely. He picks up Karl in a bar, a sailor, a bit of rough, and becomes obsessed with him, even though Karl does not share the attraction and is repulsed when Candy appears as a woman. He’s clearly there for what he can get – booze, money – but this doesn’t stop Candy’s attempts to create a relationship, despite the risks his neighbouring gay tenants warn him of. It might be more than sixty years old, but the story could be contemporary.

Director Jamie Armitage and his designer Sarah Mercade have configured the Kings Head with the audience on two sides, which provides a more spacious playing area that proves particularly effective and important for the second play. It’s carpeted in pink and surrounded by white and pink fabric, giving the space an other-worldly quality. Songs sung and played live by actors Michael Burrows and Ben Chinapen add to this atmosphere. It was great to see Annabel Leventon on stage again as Cornelia, with probably the most authentic southern accent I’ve ever heard. In the second play, Luke Mullins was outstanding as Candy, in a nuanced, delicate, mesmerising performance.

Great to add such high quality productions to my TW collection.

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Continuing my never ending, and I suspect pointless, search to understand Beckett with the Sydney Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot at the Barbican Theatre just six weeks after seeing their Endgame in Sydney, also with Hugo Weaving. At three hours, it’s my longest Godot, but it’s also probably the best.

Each production finds something different and this one is funnier and crueler. It’s set in some huge abandoned industrial landscape. Vladimir and Estragon pass the time over two days waiting for Godot, interrupted only by two visits from the blind Pozzo and his dumb ‘slave’ Lucky and two from a boy bringing a message from Godot that he won’t make it until tomorrow. They feel a sense of achievement when they fill time successfully and a sense of hopelessness when they don’t. The attempted diversions are many, but time still drags them down. We see the warmth of companionship and friendship along the way, but pointlessness and despair predominate.

There is much more physicality to the performances, whether it be the pantomime of removing and replacing shoes, changing hats, falling down and picking themselves and others up or the poor treatment of Lucky. They use the vastness of the stage well, but occasionally sit on the front providing intimate moments too. It’s funnier but it’s also more desperate. It seemed more full of contradictions, more expansive and more poignant. Director Andrew Upton suggests it’s creation was particularly collaborative as he had to take the helm at a late stage and somehow you really felt that.

Unlike The Elephant Man last week, but like Endgame six weeks ago, this is no star vehicle. A lot of people are clearly there for Weaving, and he doesn’t disappoint, but they get four fine performances and a much better, if obtuse, play. I’m used to seeing Philip Quast in musicals, so its a treat to see him give such a terrific performance as Pozzo. Richard Roxburgh is Weaving’s equal and the chemistry between them is palpable. Luke Mullins makes so much of Lucky, lurching around the stage and almost falling off twice.

For once my front row cheap seat was a bonus, giving me a close-up view of such thrilling acting. I’m not that much wiser, but it was a theatrical feast nonetheless.

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