In the bar of a Tokyo Hotel

13 Apr




Despite the fact that this play is set in Tokyo we are still in Tennessee Williams country. Not a complaint, simply an observation.

It involves a Williams style love-hungry woman, Miriam who feels she has been sacrificed to the life chosen by her husband Mark. He lives for his art  – and that is something she is unable to share with him.

It is a painful play where we are not allowed to love the characters though they are incurably vulnerable. We can pity Miriam, trapped in her marriage to Mark, a successful painter who has recently discovered ‘colour’ and shows this by rolling naked on a paint sprayed canvas ( a reference to Jackson Pollack perhaps?) Luckily he does this in his hotel room – offstage!

Miriam is desperate and predatory. She constantly tortures Mark by disappearing at night to find her prey, arriving in the early morning to the bed of her husband.

‘But I never refused you’ she says even after a night of passion with somebody else

Williams, like his character, was himself setting out on a new tack, wanting to change his Western style and he took his ideas from a Japanese friend who taught him about the verse form of Haiku, where the ending is left unfinished and the reader has to complete the meaning. This results in clipped, short sentences which break off to allow the audience to fill in the gaps. This could be difficult for the actors to play and for the audience to watch, but given the expertise of the cast and director Robert Chevara, they make it work perfectly.

This happens throughout the play and even carries on to the final curtain line . .

Linda Marlowe is quite brilliant, she plays Miriam without ever surrendering to sentimentality. She is elegant, harsh, witty and ravenous especially when she is left with the attractive Japanese barman who she endlessly pursues throughout the play. It is a refreshingly charmless and highly intelligent reading of the character. The barman, Andrew Koji, is to be congratulated on the way he keeps his dignity under stressful circumstances.

David Whitworth plays Mark, he appears staggering and apparently drunk in his paint bespattered suit. But he is a really sick man, he is dizzy and collapses from the strain of this marriage made in hell. He cries out in agony at his rejection by his wife who he knows only stays with him for her comfort.

Miriam is wanting to go to Kyoto for a holiday but doesn’t want him with her so she sends for his agent Leonard (Alan Turkington) to come and remove him to take him back to New York.

The setting is stylish and beautiful, a masterpiece of ingenuity by Nicolai Hart-Hansen unrivalled by any in the West End..

Whether or not you are a Tennessee Williams fan it is good to see this. It is different. The performances, production values, and direction are outstanding.

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