SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH – Chichester

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Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester – until 24 June 2017

“‘I think that hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding”

There’s something a little depressingly predictable about my inability to resist a neat bit of star casting – Marcia Gay Harden‘s long-in-the-making UK theatrical debut being the guilty party here. It’s depressing because Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth is a play I wasn’t much of a fan of the one time I saw it before and the heart wasn’t beating any faster at the prospect of sitting through it once again.

And maybe there’s an element of self-defeating prophecy at work because I was bored rigid by Jonathan Kent‘s production here for Chichester Festival Theatre. A quiet audience (never seen the upper seats curtained off like that before) sweltered in the stifling atmosphere but sadly, there was no heat being generated on the stage of Anthony Ward‘s distractingly-conceived design.

Harden plays Alexandra del Lago, a fading Hollywood legend whose attempted comeback has ended in ignominy at, has fled the premiere of a movie on which all her hopes were pinned and as one is liable to do, she picks up Chance Wayne, a handsome (younger) gigolo – Sense8’s Brian J Smith – who takes her to the Gulf of Mexico town of his birth. She wants to hide but he wants to fix the mistakes of his past, also vainly chasing a lost youth.

She is excellent, as befits a career that has seen her win Tonys and Oscars, but Chance is an entirely thankless part and Smith struggles to convert any of the surface passion that he shows into any kind of emotional depth. It thus makes the play hard-going over its lengthy running time and Williams’ cast of supporting characters are equally thinly drawn, making this a far from essential play, receiving a decent production but not one I could recommend travelling from London for.

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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