Bit from London: SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH

by Lynn on July 3, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

July 3, 2013 Matinee

 At the Old Vic, London. Written by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Marianne Elliott. Designed by Rae Smith. Lighting by Bruno Poet. Music and Sound by Dan Jones. Starring: Brid Brennan, Kim Cattrall, Louise Dylan, Seth Numrich and Owen Roe.




 Tennessee Williams’ fraught play about the desperation to hold on to fleeting youth and stardom. Alexandra Del Lago has fled Hollywood after what she thinks is a failed attempt at a comeback. She is accompanied by stud Chance Wayne who has visions of being a star along with his childhood sweetheart, Heavenly Finley. He left town ages before to find his fortune and became a sleeping companion to many lonely middle aged women in exchange for money. He has come back to his hometown to get Heavenly, bringing Alexandra with him. He wants Alexandra to produce the movie that will make him a star.

At times the play seems clunky but if done by a crackerjack cast and director, it can soar. While Marianne Elliott is a wonderful director and Rae Smith is a terrific designer and the production looks beautiful, they are defeated by a cast that for the most part is out of their depth with the material, the accent and the poetry of Williams’ lines. Seth Numrich as Chance and Brid Brennan as Aunt Nonnie carry off their parts with aplomb. They know the rhythm and meaning of everything they say. Numrich has that easy grace of a man who is confident in his skin but little else. Perhaps being American is a key. Brennan (always a joy on any stage) has that urgency that is true of aunt Nonnie, who tries to warn Chance. I will now contradict myself and say that Brennan is a true, blue Irish actress who has done a lot of work in London. Yet she nails that accent and the part.

 Bless Kim Cattrall as Alexandra Del Lago. She is so serious and determined to be taken seriously as a stage actress but her reach so short of her grasp. She has done a lot of plays in London where they think she’s peachy but has had little success across the pond. Her production of Private Lives closed before it was meant to in New York.

 She’s fine on television and believable. On stage she’s not. She tends not to listen to the lines being said to her, but rather waits for the cue word. The verbal exchange sounds forced. This is particularly true here with Sweet Bird of Youth. She bellows her lines instead of projects them. She puts pauses where there aren’t any. She has no sense of the poetry of Williams’ lines. The result is laboured, fake, and aggravating to listen to. Most of the cast are defeated with the American accents and force the sense of danger.

 Hell would be having to sit through this again.

Leave a Comment