Confessional

Theatre, Drama
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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Almost breathtaking misguided staging of a Tennessee Williams rarity

I feel like an awful old Luddite suggesting a young theatre company should try and have fewer ideas, but it’s hard to reach any other conclusion from this bizarre mess of a show from new company Tramp.

Bad idea one: ‘Confessional’ is a rarely performed Tennessee Williams play, which is always a terrifying prospect (there are about a billion, mostly pretty shonky).

Bad idea two: relocating ‘Confessional’, a play set in ’50s California, to present day Essex.

Bad idea three: the company’s unique performance style (‘a new kind of acting’!), which apparently involves improvising delivery, tone, movement; everything but the words.

The collision of all these things makes for a weirdly stilted night: the dialogue flows about as naturally as a Donald Trump apology, as the elegant rhythms of Williams’s southern States language clang away confusingly when spat out in hard Essex cadence. It sounds distractingly forced, a distancing effect on an already unfamiliar play, presumably massively exacerbated by the fact the cast are apparently changing their delivery every night.  

‘Confessional’ itself is essentially a series of interweaving plots set in Monk’s Place, a seaside dive bar, in which a bunch of damaged regulars unload emotionally over the course of an increasingly boozy night. I feel like I’ve seen worse Williams obscurities, but I felt so detached from the play by the delivery that I’m not sure I really could offer a fair assessment. The saving grace is a handsome set from Justin Williams, but even that causes problems, as the cast – presumably improvising away frantically – have far too much space to drift around in. I can’t help but admire Tramp’s absolute chutzpah, but this is not a bar I’ll be drinking in again. 

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