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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Blind Date and 27 Wagons Full Of Cotton
Riverside Studios   Autumn 2011

This double bill of short plays by two Southern American writers will be of more interest as introductions to (or reminders of) the two playwrights than for any special merits of the plays themselves, which are throwaway pieces, or of this production, which is uneven and occasionally inadequate.

Perhaps America's finest 'unknown' playwright, Horton Foote is highly regarded in the theatre world but best known (if at all) outside it as screenwriter of To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies. 

Blind Date is a slight piece, almost a comic take-off on Williams' Glass Menagerie, as a Southern woman tries to coach her recalcitrant niece in the social graces needed to entertain a gentleman caller. She doesn't succeed, of course, though the young couple – the lad no more socially adept than the girl though more willing to give it a try – reach a sort of happy acceptance of failure. 

As directed by Suresh Patel, Louise Templeton captures some of the Amanda Wingfield desperation of the aunt while keeping her uncomplicatedly comic and Sebastian Knapp is droll as the happily inept wooer, but Francesca Fenech can't find anything beyond generic lumpen moodiness in the girl. 

27 Wagons Full Of Cotton (best known as part of the basis for the film Baby Doll) is a more substantial piece, despite its brevity. A Southern cotton gin operator burns down the competition in order to steal its business, but his foe finds his revenge through the arsonist's simple-minded wife. 

Ross Ericson as the husband has little to do, the burden of the play lying on Francesca Fenech and Sebastian Knapp, who must establish and maintain an ambiguity about how much of what goes on offstage (and, we are told, will continue to go on daily while the husband is busy at his gin) is seduction and how much is rape. 

Knapp is a little more successful here than Fenech, who again is not taken by director Patel much beyond the surface and generic.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Blind Date and 27 Wagons Full of Cotton - Riverside Studios 2011

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