Vieux Carre, is a debatable semi-autobiographical play, written by Tennessee Williams, set in the eclectic city of New Orleans.
Set in a boarding house run by landlady Mrs Wire, portrayed by Nancy Crane, who is slowly beginning to lose her mind over the loss of her son. We are introduced to a plethora of diverse characters, all with their own harrowing, yet comic stories.
It is interesting to read that Williams originally wrote the play as short stories whilst he stayed in New Orleans, based upon real life encounters. This narrative structure is evident as it moves from each story through a fragmented rather than fluid journey. This is in no way a criticism of the piece, as it actually draws you in, which is nicely handled and staged by director Robert Chevara.
The most notable aspect is the interpretation of characters, obviously very well researched and thought through, as each is given a very detailed and precise accessibility. In particular our narrator, ‘The Writer’ (Ross Williams), provides a vulnerability and heart to the character. Williams’ excellent accent work also makes his performance strong and engaging.
Similarly there is not a member of the cast that does not deserve credit for their performance, it is an excellent ensemble piece that entices you into its, often very dark, subject matter.
Williams’ fans will notice, similarities between Vieux Carre and The Glass Menagerie, in the tone and style of the piece. Interestingly, Vieux Carre closed after only five performances on Broadway, which surprises me as I found it a moving, disturbing yet funny play with good pace, direction and narrative.
It is interesting that the King’s Head may well be a better venue for a play of this nature, to a larger West End or Broadway theatre, cementing the North London theatre as a leading force in Off-West End production.
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By Sally Bowles
King’s Head Theatre, London, N1.