Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 14 May 2016
This new production of Tennessee Williams’ play reveals weaknesses in the script but brings the characters vividly to life.
Robert Chevara’s production, as the title suggests, takes place in a cool and sophisticated bar in a hotel in Tokyo – designed perfectly by Nicolai Hart-Hansen, where Miriam and Mark are caught between need and hatred for each other. Their confrontation leads to increasing bitterness, frustration and selfishness.
Hansen’s set works perfectly in conveying the simple but practical nature of the play, that can be equally as challenging as it is fascinating to watch unfold. The flirtatious, selfish and yet vulnerable Miriam has been starved of affection for years from her absent minded, stubborn and creative husband Mark and has ultimately reached breaking point.
It is ultimately a production that is all about the performances. Linda Marlowe’s captivating and charming performance as Miriam, might not allow the audience to like her character or sympathise with her – but it does allow them to see the sense of vulnerability, behind the selfish nature that we see throughout, right up to the climax of the show.
Meanwhile, David Whitworth as Mark might appear on the surface be vulnerable but there is also a streak of independence and stubborness about him that makes the audience warm up to him a lot easier than his character’s wife.
The only one who has any real power to stand up to Miriam is Andrew Koji’s Barman. The way in which the early conversations between him and Miriam play out, shows a strength of character not willing to be pushed around by a glamorous woman.
However, the dialogue no matter how well delivered by the cast sounds a bit stilted and all over the place. There is also a question as to whether an interval is really needed given the length of the show and by doing so it breaks up the flow of the conversation and action. It is also difficult to emotionally engage with the characters and what they are going through as the lack of compassion disengages the audience from the emotions of Miriam and Mark.
It is perhaps not the strongest of plays written by Tennessee Williams and certainly on reflection not an easy watch in places – particularly when Mark is falling all over the place and getting no sympathy or help from Miriam – but the gradual build up in tension is perfect thanks to the cast and Chevara’s solid understanding of the play.
So is it worth a watch? To some extent yes – Linda Marlowe, Andrew Koji and David Whitworth ensure of capturing the audience’s attention from beginning to end. But the play itself feels as though its writer had still some work to do on it.
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel is on at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 14th May. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.