Review – Spring Storm – National Theatre

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Spring Storm, currently on at the National, was written by Tennessee Williams in college and then apparently forgotten for decades. I’m a big Williams fan and was curious about seeing a play by him I’d never heard of before. As it turns out, it’s a very clear introduction into many of the Williams types: the desperate and lonely; a woman in touch with her sexuality; a man in love with his masculinity; a man not so in touch with his masculinity; the domineering mother. The plot centers around two young men and two young women; both of the men want the prettier of the two women (Heavenly, played by Liz White); both girls fear becoming old maids; all of them have issues with wanting different things than what “society” has chosen for them.

And, other than that, my thought is that this mostly should have stayed as a school exercise, or really only be seen by hard-core Williams fans. The script is both thin and ham-fisted, and the characters mostly cardboardy (an effect highlighted by Jacqueline King as mother Esmerelda, as her farcical acting at the end of the play made me think Widow Twankey was about to make an entrance); the only one who seemed to have emotional depth was the maiden aunt (Joanna Bacon), who could have been a nothing but somehow seemed very reasonably like a woman who had played the cards life had dealt her with grace.

The actors mostly handled the material well; it’s rough being stuck with quoting Strindberg’s philosophy on stage, but in the more physical scenes, like when Heavenly was being encouraged to elope by her muscley, greasy boyfriend Dick Miles (subtle name, eh? -played Michael Thomson), it seemed very realistic, like the kind of scene you might have seen if you stuck your head around the corner at a garden party. Some of the dialogue was good (“Why must you attribute such awful motives to people?” “Because I know them”), but then some horrible clunky moment would come along (rich boy Arthur – Michael Malarkey – grabbing homely girl Hertha’s-Anna Tolputt’s- boobs and going, “This is life!”) and I cringed in my seat. I can forgive the accents wandering all over the South, American, and even the Atlantic Ocean, but I can’t forgive a line like “Every time I touched you would be like dipping my hands in her blood.” Williams was a callow young thing when he wrote this play, and its attraction toward “the obvious” is painful, just as much as the voiceover that opened and closed the scenes by giving a description of the set. I don’t need that any more than I needed to hear Bertha’s scream when Arthur described it in his memory; I can create better in my imagination. While this was an entertaining and educational night, and not horrible by far, unfortunately the play isn’t very good – not exactly “one of those tragic not-quites” (as Arthur describes himself) but nearly, and not worth the 28 quid I shelled out for tickets. You have been warned.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010. It continues through June 12th.)

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One Response to “Review – Spring Storm – National Theatre”

  1. TheTTCritic Says:

    Hehe. I was there this evening as well. I’ll have my full thoughts up some time tomorrow (definitely more positive than yours although not exactly glowing) as I caught a matinee today as well and have only just caught up with the shows I’ve seen over the last few days.

    TTC

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