I love Nottingham so much I actually stayed on to do English at university here. My passions in life are reading and writing, which is apt as I also work in my local library. My favourite things about Nottingham are the shops (well I am a girl!), the friendly people, the dinging of the tram bell and the word 'mardy'.
This is a real coup for Nottingham Playhouse.
Premiering here, in little old Nottingham before transferring direct to the West End, directed by former RSC chief Adrian Noble and starring Rosamund Pike, former Bond girl, critically-lauded in West End smash 'Hitchcock Blonde' and the best thing about last year's Oscar-nominated 'Pride and Prejudice', Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke is a must for anyone that calls themselves a theatre lover.
After watching this production, I would also declare it is a must for anyone that enjoys powerful drama, played superbly by a wonderful cast, complemented by equally strong production values.
We're in classic Williams territory – repressed sexuality, mental instability and raw physicality played out against the backdrop of the smouldering Deep South.
Pike, as Miss Alma, "a genteel spinster of nervous disposition" owns the role, conveying her character's fragility throughout. Her trembling voice and startled movements may heave with vulnerability, but with impassioned flashes of the fierce flame that burns within, you utterly believe all Alma's high-minded moralising about 'the soul'.
Pike plays the role beautifully but the real revelation was Chris Carmack, as Dr John Buchanen, the neighbour she has been in love with all these years. There was a fair smattering of teenage girls in the audience, belying Carmacks's popularity from playing Totty on American teen soap The O.C., but, judging from this stunning performance, he'll leave that particular legacy well behind.
|Rosamund and Chris|
Williams apparently thought that the character of Dr John never seemed quite real but Carmack truly brings him to life. At times, he exudes the raw sensuality and sexuality that such a character demands and yet produces moments with Pike that are absorbingly tender and touching. The chemistry between the pair generates more heat than any Deep South summer and it's riveting stuff.
The rest of the cast are fantastic too, with Tallulah Riley's delightful turn as the flirtatious Miss Nellie and Angela Down's child-like and mildly insane Mrs Winemiller (Alma's mother and her 'heavy cross to bear') lighting up the stage in particular.
The set is marvellous and detailed, with pieces sliding on and off and up and down. The slatted shutters and slowly swirling ceiling fans bring a tangible sense of heated oppression whilst the stage is dominated by an imposing stone angel, embodying the thread of morality that lies throughout the play. Effects such as the downpour of rain and the firework display make the scenes all the more convincing.
It really is fantastic to see a production of this calibre and class in Nottingham. So tell those Londoners that you saw it here first – an engrossing, enticing and emotional piece of theatre at its best.