13 November 2011

Blind Date and 27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Everything that I've seen at The Riverside in Hammersmith has been rewarding and that encouraged me to take bit of a punt and go and see the double-bill of short plays Blind Date and 27 Wagons Full of Cotton.

It also helped that 27 Wagons carried Tennessee Williams' stamp of authority.

Working away during the week meant opting for a weekend performance and so I found myself in the unusual position for going to the theatre at 5pm on a Sunday. The strange timing meant that my pre-theatre drink was a cup of tea.

In Blind Date (Horton Foote 1985) a teenage girl, who is staying with her aunt and uncle, is the subject of her aunt's attempts to find a date for her.

The aunt is not helped by the girl's attitude to boys. She has been rude to previous dates and it is getting harder to find somebody prepared to call.

Enter Felix. Felix is floppy but earnest. Their encounter reaches fever pitch and before long he is reciting all the books of the Bible while Sarah Nancy sneaks away.

We then explore behaviours, manners and that society's expectations as the aunt firmly but kindly rebukes her niece for her behaviour and tries to rescue the situation while Felix's mother also interferes for similar reasons.

The end is indecisive but happy and the play oozes goodness all the way there.

After the break (and a beer) we have a complete contrast with 27 Wagons Full of Cotton.

we are transported to the struggling cotton fields of Mississippi where desperate times call for desperate measures.

To be precise, a farmer burns down the cotton processing plant of his neighbour so that he gets the work of processing his neighbour's cotton.

The farmer's wife gives the scheme away and while the farmer gets the extra work to do his wife has to pay the price.

The end is cruel and nasty as is much of what leads to it. Only the wife is good and she suffers horribly at the hands of both men.

The plays are both set in the time and country of John Steinbeck and their similarities are reinforced by using the same actors to deliver both.

But the point of the plays, and of pitting them against each other, is their contrasts. The first is about love and goodness in the town and the second is hate and cruelty in the country.

Both plays are strong enough to stand up on their own but combined like this produces something that has more of an impact.

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