Writer: Tennessee Williams
Director: Anthony Banks, James Hillier, Jonathan Humphreys
Reviewer: Ian Foster
A soldier on leave, a lover in the cupboard, an actress in her dotage; newlyweds, mistresses, hucksters; satin pyjamas, warm croissants, endless liquor. Such is the stuff of many a hotel and in the plush surroundings of the Langham, London, all of the above and more can be found in Defibrillator Theatre Company’s revival of The Hotel Plays, a suite of three Tennessee Williams short plays performed in three suites in the hotel itself.
Site-specific performances are sometimes guilty of square peg round hole syndrome but here, the marriage of material and setting is perfect. The seating may not always be the most comfortable but that’s only right as we’re the ones eavesdropping on the private affairs unfolding in these most intimate of surroundings, flies on the wall of Williams’ mini-universes full of heartbreak, hedonism and heists.
First up is 1943’s The Pink Bedroom, where Gyuri Sarossy’s married man has kept his mistress, Helen George in blistering form, for eight years. As their arrangement, and relationship, crumbles to pieces, her fury only increases and George is quite simply stunning, pinning audience members with a steely gaze that is impossible to ignore. The writing sometimes feels like an author coming into his strengths rather than demonstrating them but it’s a powerful start.
And with 1970’s Green Eyes, the experience just gets better. A newlywed couple awake from their honeymoon night with blearily hungover eyes and scratches all over the body. But the strength of his hangover and the her marks on her body set up the most passionate of battlegrounds, where the thin line between sex and violence is painfully erased. It is breath-taking stuff, Aisling Loftus and Gethin Anthony both gripping in their flawed intensity, both hurt and hurting.
If 1980’s Sunburst doesn’t quite live up to the same benchmark, it is no fault of the actors. Carol Macready’s retired actress tries to resist the attempts of two Italian hoodlums, Daniel Ings and Jake Mann, to rob her of a jewel, but the play never settles in its attempt to balance humour with pathos and even genuine threat. But the experience as a whole is one to genuinely treasure, threaded together by Linden Walcott-Burton’s earnest busboy appearing in all three pieces, leaving the metaphorical chocolate on the pillow and ensuring we’ve all had a great evening at a rather special piece of theatre.
Photo: Simon Annand
Runs until 8th March