Theatre review: The Magic Tower and The Strangest Kind of Romance at Pentameters
PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 February 2014
Tennessee Williams wrote an abundance of one-act plays whilst acquiring the style of his later work. The subject and setting here are familiar.
Like all his characters, they are social outcasts and the setting for both plays is a squalid boarding house during the depression.
The Magic Tower, written in 1936, locates its heroine with a couple of vaudeville artists rendering a version of Honeysuckle and the Bee, sung and danced to electronic music.
Linda had worked in showbusiness but is now in love and married to a younger, aspiring artist. The rent is five weeks overdue, the landlady is harassing her and they have no food. But she loves her Jim and lives in her imagination when they are together, calling their sordid room Tower of Dreams. Sadly, the dream fades whenever she is left alone.
The second play, from 1942, is more mature but has the same setting with the furniture rearranged, but with the same peeling wallpaper.
A simple man comes to live in the boarding house and is set upon by the oversexed landlady. In a long monologue, she tells him the story of the Russian who lived in the room before and who died of tuberculosis, leaving his cat Nitchevo behind. She hates the cat and wants rid of it, but it refuses to leave.
The man meets the cat and they form an immediate love bond. This infuriates the landlady, who thinks the cat looks at her with venom. “The way one jealous woman looks at another.”
Another resident of the boarding house is her father-in-law – an ageing alcoholic who gives a long political speech about the injustice of the industrial system which he thinks has ruined his life. A quite remarkable performance by Jeffrey Kaplow.
Francesca Wilde plays full out with no holds barred as the overactive landlady and Alex Froom is very moving as the lodger. It is amazing how he is able to conjure up the invisible cat by simple gestures and excellent miming.
The plays are sensitively directed by Seamus Newham.
Until February 23.
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