Tennessee Williams, the authentic, literary genius of American literature, is best known for such classics as “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “A Streetcar named Desire”, which are constantly revived. Following their sell out Fringe success last year with a short play by Williams, Fox and Hound Theatre Company is now staging the (unofficial) British premiere of “Ivan's Widow” (1982) as part of a double bill.
This two hander play, focuses on a middle aged woman whose husband has recently passed away and is being counselled by a psychiatrist to assist her deal with grief. The stage set recreates the late 1970s period, with a rather shabby office, faded wallpaper, desk with telephone, anglepoise lamp, and a crimson velvet couch.
The Psychiatrist (He), wearing a grey pin-striped suit, greets his patient (She), as she walks warily inside and sits down. Dressed in dark navy widow’s weeds, she is clearly nervous but happy to unburden her emotional distress, “I felt I could not go on .. I don’t answer the phone or admit visitors.” She is in denial, not accepting her husband is dead, while He slyly engages in a curious game of sexual power playing, manipulating her already manic state of mind.
Adopting a kindly, calm manner, Codge Crawford portrays He as a Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde character, his seductive behaviour reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock film noir. “Lost in her hallucination” Helen Fox as She, also captures the split personality of a confused woman, her face and true feelings masked by the veil of her pillbox hat. She sips a dram from her whiskey flask, perhaps secretly flattered by his personal, if rather unprofessional, attention.
This tightly written, tautly directed half hour drama, is atmospherically enhanced by a series of musical interludes, a string concerto, Chaconne by Tomaso Vitali, which heightens the dramatic tension of this mini-masterpiece.
With a fast and clever turnaround of the set, we are now in a run down apartment, New York City, 1930s, with its brick walls, sofa, and table with beer bottles. “Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen”, is a sad portrait of a couple, impoverished in both finance and emotional strength. A young girl in a black silk kimono, sits staring out the window. The song, “Stormy Weather” plays on the radio, as she looks mournfully out at the (real) rain splattering on the glass. Her husband lies in what is probably a drunken stupor on the bed.
They do not converse, they have nothing to say to each other of any meaning. Instead, it is a series of monologues, almost musical in tone, “Talk to me like the rain and let me listen” he asks her gently, while she is lost in her own dreamworld, wanting to escape and let the rain wash away the worry lines on her pretty face.
This is more of a poem-play, performed by Codge Crawford and Helen Fox with quietly composed characterisation which astutely evokes Williams' recurring theme, the search for salvation and happiness in an imperfect world.
4 – 26 August, 2017 @ 13.45 (not 13, 20)
Ticket prices: £11.00 (£9.00)
Age suitability 12 +