Bold, intelligent and intermittently entertaining play
This article is from 2010.
The Wooster Group pulls apart Tennessee Williams’ late play set in a New Orleans boarding house and painstakingly reassembles it, adding references to the work of Warhol collaborator Paul Morrissey’s avant-garde films of the 60s and 70s and the work of contemporary artist and filmmaker Ryan Trecartin. The resulting exploration of queer cinema iconography, the gay male gaze and the relationship between Williams’ plays and film is bold, intelligent and intermittently entertaining, capturing the unedited, improvisatory feel of the Morrissey films – even incorporating the familiar crackly jump-cut into the live action. Veteran actress and Morrissey collaborator Sylvia Miles also pops up in the key supporting role of landlady Mrs Wire.
While its stark, laboratory-like set draws a pointed contrast with encoded or sanitised film versions of Williams’ works such as Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Joseph L Mankiewicz’s Suddenly Last Summer, there’s still something slightly coy about the depiction of sexuality here, which is at variance with the frank, voyeuristic eroticism of Morrissey’s work, while the grotesque, garish horror of Trecartin’s work is only occasionally alluded to.
The production features plenty of the Wooster Group’s familiar tropes and themes, including exaggerating racial and gender stereotypes to highlight their absurdity and succinctly evoking an era and an atmosphere through a melange of music, technology and film – not to mention the relegation of the text to a supporting role among all the other paraphernalia on stage. While the live action is generally crowded into the lower portion of the vast stage at the Royal Lyceum, there is so much happening on screens placed at various levels and on either side of the stage that there is always something to draw the eye. It seems a shame, though, that the audience has to view all this from the safe distance of an auditorium and not permitted to promenade in and out of the action.
Royal Lyceum, 473 2000, until 24 Aug, 7.30pm.