‘Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for’ Tennessee Williams
The theme of escape runs through these three one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. Although these productions are set firmly in their own period of 30s and 40s they resound with arguments which are still contentious today.
One of the most disturbing aspect is Williams tendency to show woman as trapped, powerless and relying on the assistance of men in freeing themselves from their predicaments. In this we can see exactly how far woman have come in Western society. Whilst this might encourage us to see the plays as dated, Williams is a writer of complexity and brilliance, and is never to be dismissed in this way. (Read on).
Starting with ‘The Case of the Crushed Petunias’, the spinster, a spikey portrayal by Emily Slaughter, is hiding herself behind her neatly ordered life. When a handsome stranger (Alexander Hulme) treads all over her rows of flowers, he brings with him the promise of unlocking the key to living a fuller life.
In the second piece ‘In Our Profession’, an actress (Bethany Blake) tired of touring, is pouncing on any bachelor she finds, but the men are not to be won.
In ‘Summer at the Lake’ (1937), presented last in the trilogy, the mother is pushing her teenage son to become the strong man of the family with tragic consequences.
There is always the subtext throughout the plays, that Williams was speaking about being gay. In his time, homosexuality was criminalised, and therefore a taboo subject. Remembering William’s play ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ dramatized in a film (1959) with the leading roles played by Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, with sexual tension fizzing and popping, an overt homosexual agenda is clear, he is not interested in her. In this trilogy at Pentameters director Seamus Newham largely ignores any homosexual undertones. However, there were plenty of other details to enjoy, particularly in the last play which touches on the pressures young men have in meeting expectations which can conflict with their natures.
Overall, the three plays were finely acted with slightly patchy performances from recently graduated actor William Keetch (who appeared in every one of them). The final play allowed him to come into his own. He is excellent as the depressed youth, whose mother is pushing him to shape up (as the strong man of the family) to replace the father who has just deserted her. The mother, played impeccably by Sarah Dorsett, is every inch the whiney, conniving, spoilt lady of the house, with egocentric concerns. However, the bouquet of the night goes to character actress Victoria Kempton whose cameo roles in the first and last plays, were exquisitely captured.
Tickets: £13.00 / Concessions: £10.00
Reviewer Heather Jeffery is founder and editor of London Pub Theatres magazine www.londonpubtheatre.com (email for press releases: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Formerly playwright and Artistic Director of Changing Spaces Theatre. Her credits include productions at Drayton Arms Theatre (Kensington), Old Red Lion Theatre (Islington), VAULT festival (Waterloo), St Paul’s Church (Covent Garden), Cockpit Theatre (Marylebone) and Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham)