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Sweet Bird of Youth

  • Theatre, West End
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

In the Old Vic’s game revival of this middling Tennessee Williams melodrama, Kim Cattrall is Alexandra Del Lago, a faded screen starlet who has fled the premiere of her comeback movie, horrified at the sight of her aged face.

Setting up the play’s most ludicrous twist, she had completely isolated herself from the world, travelling America incognito on a booze and drugs-addled binge after falling in with a handsome chancer called, er, Chance. As the play opens, the two of them are shacked up in an opulent hotel in St Cloud, Florida; what Chance hasn’t mentioned is that this is his hometown, where he has a spectacular amount of unfinished business.

On the face of it, American actor Seth Numrich is an odd choice of Chance – he’s younger and prettier than the slightly fading 29-year-old he's made out to be. But he puts in such a belter of a turn that it doesn’t really matter. With eyes that flit painfully between cocky and defeated, Numrich offers an exceptionally human and committed portrait of a man caught between a painfully pure memory of who he once was and the grimmer reality of who he has become.

It’s a great performance and Chance is the play’s one great character. His chemistry with Cattrall is odd, however – in her first scene she couldn’t be any more preposterous, a barely functional, sub-‘Ab Fab’ wreck; sparks do not fly, to the point that her eventual demands for sex feel like a naff contrivance. And her queenly resurrection at the end is equally hard to believe. Cattrall gives it a good shot, but if feels like she’s putting too much faith in Williams’s broad writing, when she could have found a more nuanced way around it.

Her scenes bookend the play – in between Chance gets embroiled in some murky local politics, as he ineptly tries to wrestle his childhood sweetheart Heavenly (Louise Dylan) back from her monstrous father. It’s all pretty bombastic, but entertainingly so, and it’s to director Marianne Elliott’s credit that she embraces this thoroughly, with a thrillingly OTT setpiece scene in a raging thunderstorm. All very watchable, but aside from Numrich’s soulful turn the play lacks a centre.

By Andrzej Lukowski


Event website:
£11-£52. Runs 2hrs 50mins
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