The Menier Chocolate Factory and Theatr Clwyd co-production has officially opened in London. Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews….  

(c)Johan Persson

Broadway World: ** “Harvey centres the thematic line on racism, bigotry, and intolerance, inadvertently (one assumes) toning down Williams’ passionate and galvanised energy with an experimental vibe that shuffles real life and fiction.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “Harvey is also good at giving the heady themes of Williams’ writing – the oppositions of freedom and oppression, art and violence, kindness and cruelty, life and death – room to breathe and grow. The decision to let Valentine Hanson as the black beggar Uncle Pleasant, the voice of the excluded wild, speak the stage directions, brings a note of poetry to proceedings, adding to the sense that what we are watching is both metaphorical and real.”

The Telegraph: **** “We’re enjoying a rare burst of imaginatively re-embraced lesser plays by Tennessee Williams. After Rebecca Frecknall’s revelatory rendering of Summer and Smoke and ahead of The Night of the Iguana in the West End in July comes Orpheus Descending (1957), not seen in London for almost 20 years. If there’s a line that links them all – and that sums up so much of what draws us to Williams – it’s to be found in the latter: “We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.” “

The Guardian: *** “Tamara Harvey’s well-cast production boasts good support from Jemima Rooper as the incarnation of free-spiritedness, Carol Royle as a racist sheriff’s visionary wife and Valentine Hanson as a choric conjure man. It is an evening in which the power of the acting overcomes the willed poeticism of Williams’s writing.”

Evening Standard: *** ” Director Tamara Harvey savours the lyrical qualities of Williams’s writing while choosing to tone down the more overripe and exotic moments with a staging that’s at times austere. But there’s not enough chemistry between Lady and Val, and this revival never quite finds its rhythm.”

London **** “There’s no escaping the heavy hand of symbolism that hangs over the play, but Harvey embraces it with an alternately noble and wild Valentine Hanson setting the scene as the narrator-like figure of Uncle Pleasant, reminding this racist, redneck community of their worst fears.”

Time Out: *** “winds up as entertaining rather than brilliant. But there are considerably worse Tennessee Williams plays that a cast as good as this could pull off – although just imagine what they might have done with one of the really great ones.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “The decision to have the stage directions read aloud lends a poetic beauty from the off, but where Harvey really excels is in evoking the suffocating mentality of pettiness and backbiting that so often characterises the disenfranchised, demonstrating how pernicious attitudes can flourish even in environments full of the oppressed.”

Orpheus Descending continues to play at the Menier Chocolate Factory until the 6th July.


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