WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE: Almeida Theatre
WHEN: 3/3, press night 7/3, runs to 7/4/18
Last year saw two acclaimed Tennessee Williams revivals in London (the Young Vic’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie at the Duke Of York’s) and his Summer And Smoke is less well known for a reason.
- Read on for reasons including why the supporting cast is strong and who is the one to watch
Set in the American South in the middle of the last century it is the story of preacher’s daughter Alma and her unrequited love for town bad boy and aspiring doctor John.
We’ve already seen lead Patsy Ferran this year (in monologue My Mum’s A Twat at the Royal Court) and here she proves once again why she’s one of our favourite actresses. She’s absolutely unafraid to show vulnerability and here she breaks your heart describing how the girl inside her dies when an encounter with John goes unexpectedly.
The object of her affection is played by Matthew Needham and frustrates as the charismatic doctor purely because the esteem in which he is held by Alma is not immediately obvious.
Director Rebecca Frecknall surrounds the back of the stage with nine pianos which members of the cast play throughout to atmospheric effect.
The supporting cast is strong and Seb Carrington, making his professional stage debut, and Tok Stephen are names to watch out for in the future. Nancy Crane is especially good as Alma’s unhinged and ice cream-guzzling mother.
At two hours and 35 minutes with interval, it feels a little long. Ferran’s central performance is mesmeric and although Williams’ writing doesn’t quite scale the heights he has previously, Summer and Smoke definitely deserves its place in the sun.