Sweet Bird of Youth – The Old Vic

You can always rely on Tennessee Williams for atmosphere and the Old Vic’s production of Sweet Bird of Youth is full of tension and claustrophobic small-town menace. Kim Cattrall plays Alexandra Del Lago, a faded movie star who has fled the premier of her return film and wakes up delirious in a small Southern American hotel. Beside her is Chance Wayne (Seth Numrich), himself an aspiring actor turned gigolo, past his youth and yet to find his big break, who has returned to his hometown to rescue his childhood sweetheart, Heavenly Findlay. We also meet the Findlay family, Boss who runs the town, and his son who heads the local racist lynch-mob with his friends. Chance had last visited the town a few years before to brag about his film success (which has since come to nothing) on which occasion his relationship with Heavenly took a murkier turn and now the Findlays are out for his blood.

For Cattrall’s Del Lago imagine a post-comeback Norma Desmond (without the dead writer in the swimming pool), sustained by drink, drugs and chance encounters, but still alive to Wayne’s attempts to manipulate her. Despite the star billing, it is Numrich however who gives the most interesting and multi-layered performance as a man still clinging to dreams of stardom which are long over, and to the fantasy of a relationship he had irrevocably destroyed years before. There are some very good scenes in the hotel bar where Wayne begins to realise his mistake in coming back, building up to the almost inevitable tragedy of the final act where given the chance to escape his fate with Del Lago, he chooses to be swallowed by it.

The set is excellent and cleverly designed, almost seamlessly moving from hotel room to Boss Findlay’s veranda to the hotel’s grand bar. But it is the tension this play creates which makes it so gripping – it may not be Williams’s most celebrated play but it is darker and in some ways more oppressive than his other works. So enjoy the drama and the performances, but be prepared to hold your breath till the end!


About Maryam Philpott

This blog takes a more discursive and in-depth approach to reviewing a range of cultural activities in London, primarily covering theatre, but also exhibitions and film events. Since 2014, I have written for The Reviews Hub as part of the London theatre critic team, professionally reviewing over 400 shows. The Reviews Hub was established in 2007 to review all forms of professional theatre nationwide including Fringe and West End. My background is in social and cultural history and I published a book entitled Air and Sea Power in World War One which examines the experience of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy. View all posts by Maryam Philpott

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: