Courtyard Theatre, London N1
Opened 8 April, 2008

The UK première of a play by Tennessee Williams ought to be an attention-grabber, but The Pink Bedroom is not in any meaningful sense a play. By my watch, it clocked in at twelve minutes, in a bill with three other pieces which only exceeded an hour in total because of time taken to re-set the stage between offerings. One of the others, Mister Paradise, received its own première only last year in the Lovely And Misfit package at Trafalgar Studios, but that also contained a piece which was of significance in terms both of writing and of playing duration. This is, well, not.
In The Lady Of Larkspur Lotion (written c. 1941), two penniless tenants of a New Orleans rooming-house endure their landlady’s scorn and cling to their respective fabrications about their lives. In Mister Paradise (1939), a young woman hunts down a neglected poet only to find the reality is a shadow of a man who knows he does not deserve recognition. In Talk To Me Like The Rain And Let Me Listen (1953), a doomed couple swap fatalistic monologues: his about last night, hers about her solitary future. And in The Pink Bedroom (1935ish), a mistress breaks with the feckless man who has set her up in the salmon boudoir in question. In some ways this last is the most realised of the lot, in that it feels (with its semi-comical payoff) as if it were composed complete in itself as a sketch rather than written as a mere exercise, or a draft or fragment to be perhaps worked up into something more major later on.
Unspoken Productions frequently rely on “the Method”; this I discovered by Googling rather than from the programme, which offers no information about either the company or the plays, not even a running order. Brian Timoney fully inhabits his character, Lee Strasberg-style, in Talk To Me Like The Rain, but I gained no such impression from any of the other seven players he directs here. Method motivation is sometimes less important than accuracy or consistency of accent or non-gabbling diction. When Williams said, “The peak of my virtuosity was in the one-act plays”, it is impossible to believe that he had any of these in mind.
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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