6 July 2013

Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic (gripping)

I went to see Sweet Bird of Youth because it is by Tennessee Williams though the promotional material emphasised the inclusion of Kim Cattrall, who apparently is famous for being in something called sex in the City.

In the end we were both right, the play was well crafted and Kim Cattrall acted wonderfully. As did the other main star, Seth Numrich, the other main star.

She played a fading Hollywood star and him a young gigolo that she picked up on her travels. He dreams of a career on the big screen and sees her as the way to achieve this. She just seems him as somebody to have a little fun with for a while.

Buoyed by the ambitions prospect of better things he takes her back to his home town of St Cloud, Florida to claim the girl that he left behind and to take that girl with him to Hollywood.

Of course it is nothing like as simple as that and we soon learn more about his past, why he left the town and the consequences of his return.

The girl left behind, we discover, is the daughter of a local plantation owner who has political ambitions and who sees the young man as an unsuitable match for his daughter.

We also discover more of what went wrong between them, which turns out to be even worse than we first suspected, and explains why her father drove the young man out of town and why various people are unhappy that he is back.

This is Southern USA so race plays a part too and the prospective political comes out in support of drastic measures to protect innocent white women from marauding white men. The point is well made that the only marauder we see is white.

The play is all about the main character's hopes for the future and the way that they wax and wane.It was very intense watching this drama of characters, events and their implications unfold over a gripping two and a half hours.

There were several ends with some characters achieving what they wanted and some failing drastically. The overall balance was negative but a lot of that was due to the time and place of the story which meant that the black and the poor were unlikely to win very much and that the justice dispensed could be very rough indeed.

There was an awful lot to take in at the end and that, plus the strong delivery, made for an afternoon of superb theatre.

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