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Vieux Carré

This play, one of Williams’ lesser performed works, forms an autobiographical snapshot of the writer as a young man at the start of his writing career, just as he is coming to terms with his homosexuality.

Published on October 18th 2006.


Vieux Carré
By Tennesse Williams
Directed by Roger Haines

If Wordsworth’s poetry can be described as ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, then Tennesee Williams’ ‘Vieux Carré’ could be seen as memories recollected in and enhanced by art.

This play, set in a run down rooming house in the Vieux Carré district of New Orleans in the 1930’s, is one of Williams’ lesser performed works. Through its dense tapestry of colourful characters and separate experiences, it forms an autobiographical snapshot of the writer as a young man at the start of his writing career, just as he is coming to terms with his homosexuality.

With no clear narrative structure save the writer’s sexual and professional awakening, this play is all about texture, as stories and characters are weaved into the fabric of the play to provide a rich portrait of a specific period in the writer’s life. This makes for an endless depth of study material, but can be rather heavy going and difficult for a mainstream audience.

The decision to stage this rarely seen play is a brave one by the Library Theatre. Challenging, gritty, and at times trying, it presents many problems. This production however, was superb. Much of the production’s success is owed to Sarah Williamson’s evocative and practical set, which overcame the difficult task of presenting bedrooms, living rooms, doors, windows and staircases on one stage area, and eliminated the need for scene changers by using sliding beds and revolving partitions on a multi levelled set. This added a great fluidity to the play, which enhanced the dreamlike qualities of the author’s memory.

The ten strong cast handled the gritty subject matter admirably, although some members seemed to struggle with the Louisiana accents. Mark Arends is believable as the naïve writer, who despite his 28 years is only just commencing his sexual and professional life, while Robert Demeger is suitably creepy and tragic as the homosexual painter Nightingale, who refuses to accept his fatal illness. The performance of the show however came from Ruth Gibson who plays Jane, the New York society girl on the run who has shacked up with a waste of space criminal boyfriend.

Roger Haines’ no hold barred direction here is well suited to the play, and the Library Theatre has gone all out to give full credit to the honesty and grit of Williams’ work, with some shocking scenes and uncomfortable moments.

This is a first rate production of a difficult play, and a bold choice from the Library Theatre.

Jayne Robinson
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Vieux Carré
Library Theatre
Until 11th November
www.librarytheatre.com

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