A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

The Print Room presents

 

Kingdom of Earth

 

Fiona Glascott (Myrtle) / David Sturzaker (Chicken) in Kingdom of Earth

Photo Sheila Burnett.

 

by Tennessee Williams

 

Directed by Lucy Bailey

 

The Print Room

 

28 April – 28 May 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Another revival of a Tennessee Williams rarity joins the Fringe’s humble offerings to the great Playwright’s Centenary celebrations, this time with new theatre on the block, The Print Room’s production of Kingdom of Earth. Following the Cock Tavern’s contribution of two never before seen Williams’ plays, the mini-renaissance continues with this truly neglected piece, last taken for a spin in London back in 1984. A generous slice of deep-south Americana, drenched in the playwright’s typical trademarks and motifs, and imbued with the sultry spirit of the Mississippi Delta, it may not be his best, but it is undeniably quintessential Williams.

Pivoting around a sibling rivalry of fateful proportions, the action begins with the return of the ailing Lot to his faded ancestral farmhouse with his new bride Myrtle. However, the threatening presence of his ill-treated half brother Chicken and the accelerated deterioration of Lot’s health, initiate a battle over the ownership of the property, in which Myrtle unwillingly finds herself a key player. With tensions simmering ominously, Williams turns up the heat to boiling point with the additional looming threat of a broken Levee and imminent flooding. In this brutal world, the long suffering Chicken reminds us, “Life don’t care for the weak and the soft”.

Although invaded by an overriding theme of decay, it is a sinister sexuality that drives the action. Myrtle shuffles between her dying effeminate husband (whose mother complex gradually crosses into Hitchcockian Norman Bates territory), and the physical menace of his half-brother Chicken, towards whom the power balance is gradually shifting. Lucy Bailey directs these powerful elements into a perfectly balanced collision, combining an unsettling presence of the sinister with a visual feast of decay, all topped off with an undercurrent of the absurd.

Vital to the play’s success, along with some excellent performances, is Ruth Sutcliffe’s imaginative design. A mountain of mud decorated with a scattering of furniture and personal belongings, and an incessant dripping and trickling of water, combine to create a post- flood, post-destruction landscape. With their fate sealed and reflected in the structure around them, the characters’ journey becomes all the more poignantly haunting.

Navigating this crumbling terrain as the vivacious and hilariously moving Myrtle, Fiona Glascott is a wonder to watch. Combining the brash, one-time Memphis showgirl with a nervy vulnerability, she almost single-handedly controls the production’s balance of comedy and darkness with natural skill and ease. A simmering chemistry gradually develops between Myrtle and David Sturzaker’s rugged and predatory Chicken, whose menacing presence is most often combined with a sardonic grin. Joseph Drake’s cross-dressing, TB ridden Lot is deliciously flamboyant, although the gradual intensifying of dramatics perhaps climaxes with a little too much physical horror.

Boldly theatrical, yet at times touchingly human, Kingdom of Earth is a fitting tribute from the darker years of such an iconic yet ultimately troubled playwright.

 

Box office: 08444 77 1000

www.the-print-room.org

The Print Room
34 Hereford Road, London, W2 5AJ

7:30 pm Mon – Sat & 3pm Sat

£16/£12 concessions



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