Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Vieux Carré, Jan 17, 2013 **1/2
Williams Itch Productions, Midsumma Festival 45downstairs,
until Feb 3, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **1/2
Review published in Herald Sun on Wed Jan 23, 2013. KH
Vieux Carré is not one of
Tennessee Williams’ major works, although its themes, characters, poetic
language and tone forecast and resonate with his renowned, later works.
Williams began Vieux Carré
in 1938 while living in the Old French Quarter of New Orleans in his 20s, but
it was not finished or staged until 1977 when it closed after five Broadway
deprivation, rhythm and heat of New Orleans are already pervasive in this early,
autobiographical work and we can almost hear Blanche Dubois and Stanley
Kowalski outside the windows.
It is set in a
dilapidated, historic boarding house run by a demented, manipulative landlady,
Mrs. Wire (Kelly Nash), and populated by misfits, drunks, the sick and dying.
The reticent, unnamed
Writer (Thomas Blackburne), a version of the younger Williams, narrates the
play, eavesdropping on residents and tapping out their stories on his old
The script resembles a
collection of short stories, a series of vignettes and character sketches
interwoven to create a tapestry of scenes.
It does not possess the
dramatic shape and intense dramatic tension of later Williams’ dramas, so its
theatricality relies on quirky characters, their poetic, self-absorbed musings
and catastrophic life choices.
Alice Bishop’s direction
captures the grim strangeness of the boarding house, but her production lacks
dynamic range, the pace is unvaried, scene changes are laboured, and the acting
and Southern accents are uneven.
There are a few strong
performances: Nash inhabits the bullying, obsessive Mrs. Wire with passion and
mania, providing the most moving moment when her sanity finally abandons her.
Samantha Murray is cool
and compelling as Jane, the upmarket New York designer, now a fallen woman with
a dire secret, and Des Fleming is convincing as Tye, her rough, petty crim
boyfriend with the ambiguous sexuality.
cleverly balances dignity and despair as the fearful, tubercular, homosexual
The Writer is the primary
filter for the story, but Blackburne looks uncomfortable in the role and, in
trying to play diffidence, his character is persistently restrained and his
vocal inflections become flat and repetitive.
Bob McGowan’s sultry,
live guitar evokes the Jazz clubs and streets of New Orleans.
Vieux Carré echoes
Williams’ later greatness, but the script and this production miss the mark on