Posts Tagged ‘Sam Shepherd’

Playwrights often risk tarnishing their legacy by producing inferior work in later years, and this was very much the case with Sam Shepherd, who died just two years ago…..but we hadn’t seen this until now.

It’s a two-hander between old friends Ames and Byron on Ames’ front porch. Byron has come at his friend’s request to provide support at a difficult time. They go back a long way and they reminisce, drinking way too much bourbon, as they wait for the eclipse due that night. The alcohol brings with it some conflict, as alcohol has a habit of doing. It’s very much a play about friendship and seems like a ‘signing off’ play, with echoes of Beckett and Pinter.

It’s beautifully staged by Alexander Lass on an evocative set by Holly Pigott, with great lighting by Jai Morjaria. It should be seen for the performances alone – Christopher Fairbank and Joseph Marcell, both on fine form. It’s a gentle, reflective hour which brought back memories of the many Shepherd plays that have enthralled me. A must for Shepherd fans.

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Though it’s great to see fringe venues like The Bush, The Finborough and The Cock Tavern sold out, it does mean you have to plan ahead a bit more. Fresh from their giant-killing Olivier award for Best Opera Production, the enterprising Cock Tavern has a pair of Tennessee Williams world premieres, of which this is the first.

It has a surreal quality also found in Camino Real. It’s a play-within-a-play and even though I knew this, I was still surprised when ‘the director’ got up from his seat to my left and ‘the writer’ joined in from the back. The play within concerns a couple in a New Orleans apartment; he an over-sexed philanderer employed by gangsters and her a sometime fashion designer and serial victim. The play is stopped by the actors questioning dialogue and action which is when the writer, director and stage manager get involved.

I’m not really sure what TW was getting at in this short 70-minute one-acter, but it was intriguing and watchable. It’s all very Pirandellian (the Italian playwright is even referenced by TW in the play). The situation and dialogue were more explicit and racier than his norm, showing how he might have developed had he been writing beyond this late piece from the early 70’s. In many ways, it provides a missing link in the line of American drama from TW to Shepherd and Mamet.

Physically semi-naked and emotionally naked, Lewis Hayes and Shelley Lang do very well in making the play within’s characters believable in the intimacy of this tiny theatre. Hamish MacDougall’s direction makes excellent use of the space and manages to balance the real with the surreal and the plays within and without.

Well worth a trip to Kilburn, but it’s probably now sold out!

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