Williams' 1950 drama is a nice, old-fashioned, expertly constructed
problem play that blends melodramatic excitement with some depth
psychology and moral questioning, all within the comfortable limits of
mainstream commercial theatre. And it is nice, after sixty-plus years,
to see that it still has all its power, making for a thoroughly
satisfying evening's entertainment.
novelist who specialises in tales of low life and depravity has a dark
secret. As respectable as he is - he is about to be knighted - he has a
compulsion every few months to live out his novels, indulging himself
in drunken sexual orgies in the East End.
wife has come
to grips with this, the rest of the world doesn't know about it, and he
is even able to bring friends from his two worlds together without much
then a blackmailer appears.
of the very
nice things about Williams' play is that almost none of the plot turns
or character reactions after that point are predictable, so that your
interest and emotional involvement are held throughout; and another is
that he deliberately leaves loose ends untied in his conclusion, so
that we appreciate that his characters have an emotional journey yet to
level of interest is generated by the fact that the play is clearly
written in code, with the hero's secret debauched heterosexual life
standing for a hidden homosexuality the censors would not have allowed
Williams to write about, and one can admire the skill of a subterfuge
that worked then but is so transparent now. (And it is a comment on the
period that Williams' substitution - sex with an underage girl - was
more acceptable than homosexuality between consenting adults would have
McIntyre guides her actors through the shoals of melodrama and moral
debate without losing the core humanity of the story or the
playwright's sympathy for all the characters - even the blackmailer is
as pathetic as evil - while also coping skilfully with the Finborough's
tiny stage and the added challenge of playing in the round.
sensitively makes his character gain in stature as he discovers and
accepts that what he thought was harmless fun has repercussions, while
Saskia Wickham provides a solid core to the play as his always
there are strong and fully rounded performances from the rest of the
cast, notably Graham Seed as the sad little blackmailer, Simon Darwen
and Olivia Darnley as real friends from the hero's secret world, and
Alan Francis as an able and loyal butler.
Return to Theatreguide.London home page.
- Accolade - Finborough 2011