Suddenly Last Summer
Playwright - Tennessee Williams
Venue- Bedlam Theatre
Run ended 9th March
Catherine is not a well girl. Last summer she witnessed the violent death of her cousin Sebastian. Now she operates on the edge of hysteria, telling horrific stories to anyone who'll listen. Sebastian's mother - the dictatorial Violet - won't, and is intent on lobotomising Catherine to keep her quiet. Suddenly Last Summer is set in Violet's garden where she has arranged for a corruptible psychiatrist to meet Catherine. This meeting (essentially a trial) forms the claustrophobic backdrop to Catherine's tale. The play relies on the audience's imagination to recreate it's main scenes - and indeed it's main character, the dead man. Thanks to Tennessee Williams rich evocative language it succeeds.
The characters are very one-sided. Violet's idealised vision of her son as a chaste poet is too obviously just an idealisation, and she herself lacks any redeeming features. By contrast, Catherine is charming, and whilst not exactly sane, is clearly telling the truth. It is nevertheless a fascinating play. Sebastian's perversion is never made explicit, making him all the more sinister. His death seems symbolic, although what it is symbolic of is not clear. Is this Freudian drama, a study in upper-class decadence or political allegory?
Charlie Alexander's direction is lacklustre but capable. Occasionally the drama deteriorates into melodrama - Jennifer Baker's Catherine especially could do with a couple more tranquilisers - and the dodgy American accents are a mistake. However the general result is good. Deborah McCracken is superb in a minor role as Catherine's mother. Although Jennifer Baker's madness isn't convincing, her storytelling really draws the audience in. This is a dark almost gothic play that will linger in your mind.
© Daniel Winterstein, 10th March 2002