Suddenly Last Summer
by Tennessee Williams
Clwyd Theatr Cymru
12 April – 12 May 2007
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Mrs Venable – Hildegard Neil
Doctor – Steffan Rhodri
Miss Foxhill – Emily Pithon
George – Daniel Llewellyn-Williams
Mrs Holly – Siân Howard
Catharine – Siwan Morris
Sister Felicity – Anni Domingo
Directed by Phillip Breen
Designed by Colin Richmond
Lighting Designer – Stuart Jenkins
Composer – Matilda Brown
Sound – Kevin Hayes
Dialect Coach – Sally Hague
The Western Mail
A scorching production is enthralling audiences at Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold.
The enduring themes of power, sex, drugs and money are given a darker palette by claims of madness. There are threats of crude surgery to stop a girl from babbling. Two very different female characters are made powerless by their disabilities, and only the truth can prevail.
The new production, by director Phillip Breen, has a strong cast of seven, who seem to need only the lightest of directorial touches to create a tense evening of drama.
Designer Colin Richmond has recreated the steamy porch of a of a southern US mansion, decaying yet grand, with trailing vines, jungle plants including a fleash eating venus fly trap and Chinese lanterns adding to the golden glow of southern light.
The same golden glow pervades the memory of Sebastian, the son of Mrs. Venable. Sebastian, a wealthy, charming, amateur poet, died the previous summer and his memory is being honed polished by his mother.
Hildegard Neil is superb as Mrs Venable: an iron lady in a black velvet gown who veers between utter self control and spitting malice as she tries to order her family who desperately want her money.
But there is an inconvenient fly in the ointment. The passionate and possibly mad niece Catherine, who was with Sebastian when he died has an horrific and very different version of his life and death. She recalls, 'he was famished for blondes' as they roamed the world picking up people and casting them aside when they had used them.
Siwan Morris puts in a wonderful, sustained performance as Catherine - has she been brought to madness by what she has seen, or is the madness skewing her memories. The play turns in to a real thriller as it builds to a climax. The powerful old lady is trying to manipulate the girl's fate by persuading a doctor to perform a doctor to perform a lobotomy on her and stop her babbling her inconvenient truths. The carrot is cash for his clinic but will he succumb?
Steffan Rhodri gives a nicely understated performance as the doctor, trying to remain true to his Hippocratic oath despite the lures of money and success. And there is a moving scene between the doctor and her when he offers her another injection to her already bruised and battered body.
Sian Howard is Catherine's mother trying to trying to reconcile her love for her daughter with her desire for the family inheritance and Daniel Llewlyn-Williams is George her crass and greedy son. Tennessee Williams was a master of analysis of the dysfunctional family and in this play he addresses somewhat obliquely many of the ambiguities of his own life, from his sister's lobotomy to his own homosexuality.
There are some wonderful lines 'we are all children in a vast kindergarten trying to spell god's names with the wrong alphabet blocks' says one character on her eternal search for a deity. Catherine the tortured girl says, 'I can't change the truth, I'm not God' as she embark on the retelling of her story, which we save her mind or condemn her to a lobotomy.
Passion pervades the stage in the final scenes, and you could hear a pin drop as the audience await the outcome of Catherine's tale. It's a fine production that reminds us all how memory plays tricks on us as we try and make sense of the past and honour the dead.
Liverpool Daily Post:
SHATTERING, SIZZLING, ANGST RIDDEN NIGHT
'Liverpool born director Phillip Breen - who last year tucked in to a terrific version of Pinter's The Birthday Party - takes a firm grasp of dialogue that gradually builds to a shattering crescendo... Awesome stuff'
Steffan Rhodri, Siân Howard. Photo © Pete Le May
Siwan Morris, Steffan Rhodri. Photo © Pete Le May
Siwan Morris, Daniel Llewellyn-Williams, Hildegard Neil, Steffan Rhodri. Photo © Pete Le May
Anni Domingo. Photo © Pete Le May
Emily Pithon, Hildegard Neil. Photo © Pete Le May
Siân Howard, Siwan Morris. Photo © Pete Le May
Steffan Rhodri, Siwan Morris. Photo © Pete Le May
Hildegard Neil. Photo © Pete Le May
Detail of set design by Colin Richmond. Photo © Pete Le May
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