A life traipsing round hotel rooms must be pretty miserable. But in a way we’re lucky that’s how Tennesee Williams spent the latter part of his life, as it furnished his rich imagination with the setting for a trio of sharply detailed vignettes, three postcards of plays that no-one would actually send home.
Set in three different hotel “suites” (what we would know as rooms) of the luxury Grange Holborn Hotel, London-based theatre company Defibrillator’s second production takes us thrillingly close to some pretty dark scenes – but there’s brightness in patches too. Most of the audience get seats (for the experienced site-specific-goers who might be wondering). Called to action by hotel boy Charlie - Royce Pierreson who becomes knight-in-shining armour later, so remember him - and we’re off for 90 minutes.
First up is Green Eyes, where two young newlyweds in New Orleans grapple with the Boy’s trauma as a Vietnam soldier – and the Girl has a secret to hide about a certain pair of “enormous green eyes”, and the bites and bruises on her body. It’s taut, exceptionally executed by Clare Latham and Matt Milne, while Defibrillator’s artistic director James Hillier who also directs here has his eye on everything from the sound of the Girl’s feet uncertainly swooshing across the carpet, to the Boy’s primal mannerisms and interest in her semi-exposed body. A fierce and fearless start to the night.
As we go up another level, another story is picked up: this time a semi-autobiographical one about The Travelling Companion. A frenetic, medicinal pill-popping author called Vieux (played by John Guerrasio) pads around the bed like a puppy in big glasses (like those Williams wore), a Hawaiian shirt and crumpled, cream suit jacket. But his new travelling companion won’t play ball and accept his advances, as Beau (Laurence Dobiesz) has arms firmly crossed and wants a separate bed. Is it a façade? Directed by Anthony Banks, this deceptively light play is perhaps most intriguing for the insight it may or may not give into Williams’ life.
Go up one more final floor and we find the imperious though immobile Miss Sylvia Sails (Carol Macready in fine form), an aging theatrical legend who is stuck in her suite for the night with only the creepy, faux-friendly attentions of hotel boy Giuseppe. A shiny but sinister Charlie Hollway just wants the prized Sunburst diamond ring on her swollen finger, plotting to do away with the apparently helpless Sylvia, along with fellow Italian Luigi. The moment they spend curled asleep before sunrise, masterfully directed by Robert Hastie, is as surprising as it is typical of Tennesee: nothing is ever black and white.