A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Jermyn Theatre and Good Night Out presents


A Cavalier for Milady


by Tennessee Williams


Directed by Gene David Kirk


Jermyn Street Theatre


7-25 of June 2011


 

One more Tennessee Williams morsel has been dragged out from a dark forgotten corner of the playwright’s final years, in this third instalment of London’s celebrations of the theatrical heavyweight’s centenary. As opposed to the intense and complex dramatic fabric of The Print Room’s Kingdom of Earth and The Cock Tavern’s I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays, A Cavalier for Milady is a swift hour of savage biographical constructions built on the fault-lines of Williams’ maternal relationship. This is a surreal and experimental short piece, which whilst providing interesting biographical insight, simply falls short in its dramatic substance.

Dressed in a little girl’s party dress, complete with ribbon adorned pigtails, the delusional Nance is a fully grown woman infantilised by her ferocious Park Avenue society, lady-about-town Mother. The action begins with Nance’s mother and her equally grotesque friend going off into the night to fulfil their seemingly insatiable carnal appetite for male escorts. Meanwhile, Nance fulfils her own repressed sexual fantasies through the invocation of an apparition of the enchanting ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, with whom she attempts to indulge her sexual desires and ease her desperate loneliness.

As a little knowledge of Williams’ personal life, or indeed a quick read of Paul Taylor’s informative programme foreword will tell you, the playwright had a very troubled relationship with his mother Edwina. It is clear that Williams never forgave his mother for the brutal decision to lobotomise his mentally disturbed sister Rose. This unearthed play appears to be his retribution. Edwina is re-imagined as a cruel, shallow sexual predator, and Rose as Nance manages to find solace in the equally tortured Nijinsky who reminds her that “to be stupid is worse than to be mad”. Despite the intriguing quality of its material, the play feels more like an exploration by Williams of his complex family relationships than a well rounded theatrical piece.

Nevertheless, Director Gene David Kirk does not disappoint, and there are some beautifully touching moments between Caitlin Thorburn’s intensely realised Nance and Sam Marks’ light footed Nijinsky, as they transport the audience into a captivating realm of illusion. The set is very pretty to look at, and there is even a small dose of very impressive ballet from Sam Marks thrown in. Nance’s libidinous and vicious mother and her crony Mrs. Aid, played by Janet Prince and Lucinda Curtis respectively, bring a little cabaret comedy to the mix. Although entertaining, it is at times a little overdone, bringing to mind the hedonistic misdemeanours and antics of the equally camp ladies of Absolutely Fabulous. Yet overall strong performances and direction lend the production a certain level of quality.

Of the three offerings of Tennessee Williams rarities, A Cavalier for Milady is the most insightful into the personal life and mind of America’s great playwright; unfortunately it is not in this particular exploration of it that his finesse lies.

 

Box office: 020 7287 2875

www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk

Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6ST

7:30 pm Mon – Sat & Sat 3:30 pm

£15/£12 concessions

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