Well, come Monday evening (no, not the Bank Holiday the one before that; bear with us, we’re out of synch) the Broadway Bellyachers had finally reverted to West End Whingerhood and were feeling decidedly other-worldly. This was mostly thanks to a red-eye flight (which obviously made no difference whatsoever to the colour of Phil’s eyes) which reluctantly took off after a near-3 hour wait on the tarmac at JFK, the misery of which was not really entirely offset by the compensation of a single beaker of water proffered by Virgin Atlantic. What was that all that about? Don’t they know who we are?
Well, no, they don’t any more. No-one does. We’re air-side now. Our bogus minor royalty status has drained away. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Angus McIndoe any more.
Anyway, it’s a mere 10 hours after we land and we’re at the Whingers’ most dreaded “space”: the National Theatre‘s Cottesloe which – let’s be honest – on previous form is hardly the likeliest of places to keep the Whingers from dropping off mid-play. And this one – Tenessee Williams’ Spring Storm – is 2 3/4 hours long.
Surely the Whingers would need a Spring awakening to keep them from flagging. But then again they would be in the Cottesloe, so the chances of an interval departure seemed almost inevitable.
But then, on the other hand the Whingers tend to like a Tenessee Williams. They have a great deal of time for that deep south melodrama even if he does tend to go on a bit sometimes.
Well, it was just wonderful. Everything about it. The imaginative set (Sara Perks), the atmospheric lighting (Chris Davey), the ambient sounds (Christopher Shutt), the performances (Joanna Bacon as the old maid Aunt Lila, Jacqueline King as the mother and future star Liz White as the “heroine” Heavenly Critchfield), the threading of a needle on stage (we wish we had been sitting closer so that we could check if this was actual), the discussion of white organdy dresses, the nibbling of coconut cake, the southern drawls and the very funny dialogue (“Books and things” as a general term for intellectual topics and “Are you sure you’re not talking through your little spring bonnet?” have been appropriated into everyday conversation every day).
Two jet lagged people at least were grateful for director Laurie Sansom‘s decision to let the comedy pour out wherever it wanted to: the scene in which Jacqueline King gabbles nervously to her guest rightly got a round of applause.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly the highly talented Liz White (right) who delighted the Whingers by downing – in one go each – two bottles of cola before going on to deliver the funniest southern belle flirtation* scene of the season.
The only thing that could possibly have made this production much better would be if Leslie Jordan were to play all the characters.
Yes, definitely the best thing at the Cottesloe since The Pitman Painters. Which is a backhanded compliment of sorts. Neither of these are 100% National Theatre productions SS comes from the Royal & Derngate Northampton, TPP a co-production with Live Theatre, Newcastle. But we are very impressed by what Sir Nicholas puts in his shopping basket.
Mister Williams does love his metaphor and he does almost literally batter the audience about the heads with his “spring storm” but it wasn’t this that really affected the Whingers. No, it was the ongoing theme for the play’s women that the biggest fear in their lives was of becoming old maids, spending their hours on their porch swings watching the gentlemen pass by.
This struck home particularly hard as by complete coincidence the Whingers have both independently bought swing seats for their respective front verandas (that’s not a euphemism, by the way) and had been looking forward to a summer spent fanning themselves and sipping mint juleps. However, anyone looking for a swing seat of their own is advised to go to ebay where there are two on sale, still in their boxes.
Yes, yes, there ARE men in it too and they are also very good.
* It would be the funniest seduction scene of the season if Katie Finneran hadn’t stolen Promises Promises.