Following a successful run at The Almeida, Summer and Smoke, one of Tennessee Williams’ lesser known plays, has transferred to The Duke of York’s Theatre.
With a stage filled with seven upright pianos, the cast play discordantly throughout to provide the eerily foreboding landscape for Tennessee Williams’ devastating drama. Both Patsy Ferran as Alma, an anxiety filled preacher’s daughter and Matthew Needham as John Buchanan Junior, a medical student obsessed with ‘feeding his senses’, provide stellar performances. Like chalk and cheese, the two’s lives are entwined and no matter how hard they try to come together- they just don’t fit.
Ferran, effortlessly slips between anxious ridden young woman, to lust filled girl, to self righteous teacher who cannot allow herself to give in and feed her own hunger for physical desire. Whereas Needham, storms around the stage as he drowns his sorrows with copious amounts of alcohol, partying and entertaining women in a bid to forget the expectation to succeed that is thrust upon him, the responsibility of following his fathers footsteps and completing his legacy.
The production directed by Rebecca Frecknall is stunning. The minimalistic design, by Tom Scutt- reflects the bricks of The Almeida Theatre and provides the simplicity needed to let the action speak for itself. The cast work together, multi-rolling and providing colourful characters in which this story is told. Anjana Vasan as Rosa, showcases her bluesy vocals, singing in her fathers night club and Nancy Crane as Mrs Winemiller, innocently floats across the stage with an ice cream- coming out with witty remarks at just the right time to tease her daughter.
This is a story of conflict, do we follow our instincts and give in to desire or do we suffer loneliness at the risk of shaming ourselves and our families. An absolute must see- there is no question as to why this production transferred.