Suddenly Last Summer Review

Category: Suddenly Last Summer Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: April 14, 1999 | Publication: The Independent | Author: reviewer
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"The Grand Guignol opening of Sean Mathias's revival of Tennessee Williams's 1957 play augurs well. There's a deafening crack of thunder and the curtain rises on a highly stylised vision of a Southern Gothic mansion. We see, caught in the lightning, its fierce mistress, Violet Venable. Suddenly Last Summer is uniquely pitched between the concision of a short story and the high drama of a one-act opera and Mathias quite rightly leans towards the latter... The linguistic rhythms of the play demand an almost architectural control of structure, but Mathias has focused on encouraging his cast to mine the script for the emotional subtext. This can pay huge dividends, as in his controversial interpretation of Coward's Design for Living. But this approach denies the possibility that characters are good at disguising their true nature, and in this instance there's too much concentrition on subtext at the expense of the surface text, which is subtler than it seems here. With emotions and motives laid bare from the start, everything peaks too soon, putting a strain on the play's rising emotional arc. It also ruins the tension. There is no actress I would rather see play Tennessee Williams than Sheila Gish, but even she is laid low by Mathias's approach. Instead of allowing the full horror of Violet's plan to steal over you, Gish reveals her true nature and self-delusions from the outset, thus robbing us of Williams's surprise shift of sympathies..."