A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Good Night Out presents

 

I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays

 

Lewis Hayes as Tye, Shelly Lang as Jane in I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark On Sundays at Cock Tavern Theatre

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

 

 

by Tennessee Williams

 

Directed by Hamish MacDougall

 

 Cock Tavern Theatre

1-26 March 2011


 

Away from the bright lights of the West End, the sophistication of the New York Theatre scene and the lecture halls of Tennessee Williams academics, the approaching centenary celebrations of arguably, one of America’s greatest playwrights have been high jacked by a humble pub theatre in the not so exotic surroundings of London’s Kilburn High Road. Still revelling from the success of its’ operatic conquest in the form of last year’s Olivier nominated La Bohème, The Cock Tavern Theatre has managed to get its’ hands on an as yet unpublished and never before performed Williams play, and with such a theatrical rarity at their disposal, resident theatre company Good Night Out certainly has a great deal to deliver.

Written during the early seventies, in the years that marked the decline of the playwright’s public reputation (fuelled by a dependency on alcohol and prescription drugs) and his ostracization from the theatrical and critical establishment, I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays comes from a particularly dark phase of Williams’ life and career. In typical Tennessee Williams style, this unearthed play is inhabited by characters which embody a sometimes unnerving duality of fragility and violence, are exasperated by the world of moral decay they appear to be trapped in, and are permitted by the playwright to hurl themselves head first down the path of self-destruction. However, this time round Williams also gives it a ‘play within a play’ Pirandello twist, allowing for an charmingly ambiguous self-irony to hover on the surface.

Two actors are rehearsing a play set in the balmy French Quarter of New Orleans, where two lovers struggle to sustain their illusions of harmony and freedom. Trapped in a world of strip clubs, sexual currency and gradual decay, Tye (Lewis Hayes) and Jane (Shelley Lang) battle it out on a particularly oppressive Sunday afternoon. With erratic interruptions from the hard to please actors, tensions arise between the cast, director and particularly with the headstrong, whisky swigging, southern talkin’ and perhaps heavily autobiographical Playwright. Well thought out and soulfully executed, Hamish MacDougall’s production handles these transitions beautifully, drawing the audience in and out of the violent intensity of Tye and Jane’s relationship with an abruptness of textual self-reflection that gradually softens into a sort of drifting haziness.

Set designer Mike Lee’s cramped, cluttered and suffocating New Orleans apartment achieves its effectiveness especially well through the slightly disorientating wooden balcony door frame, its lines askew and its hinges distorted. Commanding the set as Jane, Shelley Lang’s raspy breathing and New York coarseness perhaps took a little while to settle into, however her overall performance skilfully channelled the intricate mixture of fragility, brutality and almost painful volatility which the character demanded. Lewis Hayes’ nonchalant Tye was a stable presence in contrast to Lang’s emotionally demanding nervous energy, delivering the disturbing story of a star stripper’s gruesome murder with a delicate and subtle intensity. Keith Myers’ deteriorating playwright seemed to receive automatic admiration from the audience, the character’s noticeably autobiographical nature demanding a certain respect and awe on such an occasion.

Rising to the challenge of such a rare and exciting theatrical and literary opportunity, The Cock Tavern not only delivers, but promises to do it all over again when it puts on yet another of Williams’ unseen plays at the end of the month; a true triumph for the fringe.

 

 

Box office: 0207 478 0165
www.cocktaverntheatre.com
 Cock Tavern Theatre
125 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 6JH
7:30pm Mon – Sat & 3 pm Sat & 4pm Sun
£15/£12 concessions


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