Cavalier For Milady
admirably ambitious above-a-pub theatre scores another coup with the
world premiere of a late and hitherto unknown Tennessee Williams play.
Milady is a slight and fragile work, and the resources of the Cock
Tavern Theatre aren't quite up to doing it full justice, but like the
Cock's other Williams premiere it will be a must-see for all those
fascinated by America's greatest poet of the theatre.
Williams' finest dramas, this one is ultimately about his sister Rose,
whose burgeoning adolescent sexuality so offended and frightened their
mother that she had the girl institutionalised and lobotomised. (Rose
actually was severely disturbed and lobotomy was unfortunately state of
the art treatment at the time.)
this short play,
a grown young woman is kept infantilised by her mother, in part to deny
her maturity, in part so that mother can pretend that she herself is
still youthful enough to warrant the attentions of her hired escorts.
sexuality is channelled into erotic fantasies out of her reading,
currently taking the form of an apparition of the dancer Nijinsky. But,
voicing a recurring Williams theme, the ghost warns that his ideal
perfection cannot exist alongside physical sexuality, and the girl can
either adore or desire, but not both.
so this late
play footnotes themes and images that haunted Williams' entire career,
not just his sister, but the fragility and otherworldliness of lovers
of beauty, the impulse to escape the body but the impossibility of
doing so, the shimmering line between sensitivity and madness, and the
cruelty of the unfeeling toward those clutching at ideals.
a lot for a
one-hour play, and only a writer of Williams' delicacy could offer so
much through wisps of suggestion and allusion - while, I should add,
framing it all in the earthy comedy of the bawdy mother and a startled
condemnation of director Gene David Kirk when I say that one senses
more to the play than this production has been able to capture.
may be miscast as the girl, conveying her sense of wonder at the
apparition she raises but neither the emotional fragility nor the
irresistible sexuality that must be in constant battle within her.
the cool purity of the ghostly Nijinsky but only hints at his struggle
to maintain it, and the tiny stage hinders his moments of dancing. And
while Janet Prince, Gillian Hanna and Lucinda Curtis have fun with the
broad comedy of the framing scenes, there is too little sense of the
menace their crudity represents.
couldn't even raise these complaints if the director's vision weren't
acute enough to point us toward what wasn't quite achieved, and even in
its imperfect form this production is fascinating and evocative.
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- A Cavalier For Milady - Cock Tavern 2011