Posts Tagged ‘play’


This book contains three of Tennessee Williams’ plays – the title play Sweet Bird of Youth, The Night of the Iguana, and Period of Adjustment. In Sweet Bird of Youth, a wannabe actor named Chance Wayne, returns to the town of his youth with an ageing actress. Chance wants to get back with his one true love, Heavenly Finley, but her family – and most of the rest of the town are not happy, and the violence simmering under the surface threatens to erupt.

In Period of Adjustment, newlyweds George and Isabel visit George’s old Korean war friend Ralph. The marriage has not got off to a good start, and it soon transpires that Ralph has marital problems of his own.

In The Night of the Iguana, a disgraced priest named Lawrence Shannon, has taken on a job escorting coach tours, and brings a coach load of his charges to a Mexican hotel, where he knows the owner. The all-women clientele on the coach hate Shannon as he has had relations with a 16 year old girl on the tour. Another lady named Hannah checks into the hotel with her elderly grandfather, and there is a connection between her and Shannon.

The theme that ripples through each of these plays is frustration at missed opportunities, and regret at bad decisions, which often manifests itself as anger. The writing is beautiful at times, and incredibly sad. But worth reading. Tennessee Williams really digs down into the human psyche and writes without judgement.

Not the most uplifting of reads, but definitely well worth a look.

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Halfway through act one of The Play That Goes Wrong, my stomach was aching from laughing so hard.  During the interval, a woman told me that her makeup had washed off, because she had been crying with laughter.  After the show, walking from the theatre, a woman holding her show programme stopped another woman also holding a programme, and the two of them talked about how funny the performance was.  Anyone who has seen The Play That Goes Wrong will be able to understand these reactions, because it is, truly hilarious.

Written and performed by the Mischief Theatre Company, the entire show is a play called A Murder at Haversham Hall, put on by the Cornley Polytechnic Amateur  Dramatic Society.  And as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong does.  The show starts with the director coming on stage to address the audience.  He explains how good it is to have a play where there are enough cast members to fill all the roles (making references to previous productions such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cat’ or their previous staging of ‘The Lion and the Wardrobe’).

The gags come so thick and fast, with collapsing sets, fumbled lines, cast members being knocked out cold, that it was barely possible to recover from one laughing fit before another one comes along.  Greg Tannahill played Jonathan Harris, who in turn played murder victim Charles Haversham, who has to endure people treading on his hand and  a stretcher which breaks under his weight, causing him to have to try and slide unobtrusively off the stage, amongst other humiliations, and like the rest of the cast, he was wonderful.  Charlie Russell was excellent as a wannabe sex symbol, and the completely inappropriately grief less fiancee of the murder victim.  Nancy Wallinger shone in her role as a harassed stage manager, battling valiantly with a falling down set, and eventually being forced to take over one of the main roles.  I also loved Dave Hearn, as Max, a young actor who is clearly over-awed at appearing on stage, and Jonathan Sayer as a hammy actor who unsurreptitously checks his hands where he has written words he has trouble pronouncing.  Henry Shields and Henry Lewis play Chris – the show’s director who also plays the part of the Inspector sent to investigate the murder, and Robert – who plays an old friend of the murder victim, and they too were terrific.  And Rob Falconer, who played Trevor the stage manager, was also superbly funny.

Prior to the show, Nancy Wallinger and Rob Falconer, in their respective characters, can be seen trying in vain to fix the crumbling scenery, and even got an audience member to come on stage to help.  During the interval, Rob – as Trevor – ran through the audience looking for a dog named Winston (who makes an extremely non-appearance during the play, but does get to take his curtain call at the end).

Of course, the play that the amateur dramatic company are performing is totally unsubtle, and the terrible acting (which is actually demonstrative of the actual cast’s wonderful talents) doesn’t help, and this all adds to the fun.

The audience at Wolverhampton Grand was rocked with laughter throughout, and everybody left with huge smiles on their faces.  I will definitely be looking out for more productions by the Mischief Theatre Company, and urge everybody to try and catch this wonderful show, which is touring before moving back to London’s West End.

Simply wonderful – I loved every minute.

(For more information about the Mischief Theatre Company, please click here.)

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Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), runs an illegal floating craps game (the game is held at different venues each night, to stop the police catching them gambling), in New York City.  To raise the $1000 needed to pay a man for a room in which to hold the game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a man who is known to take a gamble on just about everything, that he (Sky) can’t get a woman of Nathan’s choosing to go to Havana with him.  The woman Nathan chooses is Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a prim and proper Sergeant in the Save-A-Soul Mission.  Nathan takes the bet, but when he goes to see Sarah, events take an unexpected turn.

This film is a wonderful musical comedy/drama.  I was interested to see how Marlon Brando would be as Sky Masterson, as musicals are not a genre usually associated with Brando.  The first choice for this role was apparently Gene Kelly, who wanted very much to play Sky, but he was contracted to MGM, and they would not loan him out for this film.  As I watched Brando, I tried to imagine Kelly playing the role, and I do think he would have made a marvellous job of it.  However, Brando surprised me by really making the part his own.  He may not have the best singing voice, but he holds a tune well, and I enjoyed his songs, especially the well known Luck Be A Lady.  He is also at his most handsome and charming here.  Sinatra, naturally, sings his songs beautifully, and was wonderful as the slightly dodgy but basically likeable Nathan Detroit.

I also loved Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine as Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide (the latter being the long suffering fiancee of Nathan Detroit, who despairs of them ever getting married).  Adelaide is a nightclub singer and dancer (backed by the real life dancers The Goldwyn Girls), and the couple of sings which we see her perform as part of her act are a real treat.  The opening dance scene, and the dance preceding the Luck Be A Lady are terrific, full of colour and beautifully choreographed, and the dancing in the Havana restaurant scene is also lots of fun to watch.

My only slight niggle about the film comes from its length – at 2 and a half hours, it is perhaps slightly overlong, but I’m probably nitpicking.  Overall, it was a funny film, packed with real talent, and well worth watching – highly recommended.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Producer: Samuel Goldwyn

Writers: Damon Runyon (stories ‘The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown’ and ‘Blood Pressure’), Jo Swerling (play ‘Guys and Dolls’), Abe Burrows (play ‘Guys and Dolls’), Joseph L. Makiewicz, Ben Hecht

Main cast: Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully


(Click here for my review of the 2016 stage production of Guys and Dolls.)



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This review relates specifically to the Penguin Shakespeare edition (the cover of which is shown above).  I mention this, because of the excellent introductions in this book, which really enhanced my enjoyment when reading the play.

The book starts with a brief introduction by Stanley Wells, of Shakespeare’s life and times, followed by a list of Shakespeare’s plays, dated as far as can be accurately determined.  There then follows a lengthier introduction by Helen Hackett, to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This introduction is wonderful, providing analysis and different interpretations of the play.  She takes many of the main characters and looks at how they have been portrayed differently in various performances, as well as discussing the symbolism within the play and the context in which the play was written, and breaking down the language of some of the scenes.  I found this introduction to be both entertaining and enlightening (speaking as someone who very rarely reads the introductions in books).  One of the most interesting parts was where she discusses the play-within-the-play, which is performed by the mechanicals at the wedding party towards the end of the play.  While the mechanicals might initially seem like a bunch of incredibly amateur actors, who don’t understand the idea of trying to convince an audience, it could also be seen as they are far more aware of the ‘falseness’ of their profession, and don’t seek to hide the fact that they are merely actors speaking lines.

The play itself is, of course, fantastic.  It is packed with humour, wit and sensuality, but  most of all it has the most beautiful, lyrical language.  I particularly liked how the young lovers and the fairies spoke in different types of rhyme, while the ‘mechanicals’ spoke mainly in prose.  The story revolves around four youngsters – two women who love two men – but due to the love potions of the fairies of the forest, their affections become transferred and all sorts of confusion reigns.  Simultaneously, Fairy King Oberon and his Fairy Queen Titania have fallen out, and he casts a spell which causes her to fall in love with Bottom the Weaver – who is temporarily sporting a donkey’s head!  (A lengthier synopsis of the story can be found in my review of the 1999 film adaptation, to which there is a link at the end of this review.) 

It took me a long time to read Shakespeare – while I have often enjoyed adaptations of his work, I have never liked the idea of sitting down and reading his plays (and after all, plays are written to be seen, not read).  However, I very much liked reading this play.  Shakespeare’s wit and intelligence is clear to see, and almost 500 years after he was born, his work is still relevant and enjoyable.  I will certainly be reading more of his work.  The introductions in this particular edition contributed in no small way to my pleasure in reading and understanding the story. 

If like me, you always thought that you would never enjoy Shakespeare, I would recommend trying one of the books from the Penguin Shakespeare series – you might just be pleasantly surprised!


Click here for my review of the 1999 film adaptation.


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