The Hotel Plays (Langham Hotel)

Defibrillator’s triple bill of Tennessee Williams shorts opened at the Langham Hotel last week

Gethin Anthony and Aisling Loftus in Green Eyes
Gethin Anthony and Aisling Loftus in Green Eyes
© Simon Annand

Defibrillator’s uneven triptych of Tennessee Williams shorts benefits hugely from the smart move to stage them in separate suites at the Langham Hotel.

The rooms are not immediately dissimilar – all of them tend towards the kind of professional anonymity you would expect in a 5* hotel – and yet subtle variations (from bedspreads and curtains, to period clocks and lamps) gives each just sufficient specificity to create a different mood for their individual stories.

The outstanding short Green Eyes takes place in the darkest room, though some intelligent lighting behind a curtain hints at a blazing hot day beyond its stuffy confines. Though the common thread through each play is of intrusion into intimate, private encounters, the sense of threat is greatest here. A young married couple, drowsy and hungover, awake on the verge of a blistering argument.

Aisling Loftus gives a wonderfully provocative performance (difficult to watch – harder to look away from) as the wife who seems to regard her livid, brooding husband (Gethin Anthony) with contempt. Viewing the couple at such close quarters is both compelling and uncomfortable in just the right measure, and both cast and director (James Hillier) should also be applauded for keeping the action on the right side of melodrama.

The other pieces aren’t to the same level. The Pink Bedroom looks wonderful, indeed it feels a little like entering an Edward Hopper painting: unfortunately the flat direction means it’s a picture in which the characters remain largely static. The ambiguity of Williams’ dialogue needs more assertive dramatic storytelling than is offered here.

Sunburst is a more unusual tale, but it suffers from the least developed script. It’s hard not to feel Williams’ got bored with his story after its lively opening. This is a great pity as Carol Macready is mesmerising as the aging stage actress whose mind has started to wander. Daniel Ings also does extremely well to suggest an individual malevolence to a character that as written, seems more like an unpleasant stereotype.

Site specific settings can often feel contrived but Defibrillator’s production is both intelligent and winningly unpretentious. It makes for a novelty that is ultimately well worth encountering.