"Intense, Psychological play, expertly performed."
by Cheryl Rowlands for remotegoat on 15/03/19

“To play with fear is to play with fire. No, worse, much worse, than playing with fire. Fire has limits. But fear….”

Described by Tennessee Williams as “my most beautiful play since Streetcar, the very heart of my life.” When Tennessee said it was at the very heart of his life, he meant it, as it is partially autobiographical. Clare was loosely based on his sister, Rose, and Felice on Williams himself and it took him over ten years to write.

Red Rope Theatre Company are renowned for their quality productions and I have reviewed a couple previously, so I was really looking forward to attending this.

Brother Felice (played with passion and intensity by Dan Gaisford), was quite violent towards his sister at times and although it was quite shocking to see in this age where emotions are constantly “dumbed down” and Politically Correct, it was also quite refreshing in a strange sort of way. Felice dragged Clare around, pulled her coat off her, smothered her with a cushion, and I literally jumped when he bore down on her and thumped the wall - I honestly thought he was going to hit her. It was extremely intense and brilliantly performed. He also succumbed to a great deal of angry shouting and at times I really felt for Clare.

Another intense moment came when Felice produced a gun that he had hidden and you instinctively felt that this was going to end in the inevitable and that someone would end up dead. No-one did, however brother and sister each in turn used it to threaten the other. Clare (expertly played by Co-Founder of Red Rope Theatre, Rebecca Robson), was the first sibling to do so, pointing the gun at her brother but didn’t have the emotional strength in her that was required to pull the trigger. Felice reciprocated by grabbing the gun and holding it to his sister’s head, but he was also unable to follow through. After suffering the violent deaths of their parents, having been abandoned by their theatre company and with their increasingly volatile psychological down-spiralling, all they had left in the world were each other.

The interval was a little awkward, as the house lights did not come up fully and the actors froze on stage, leaving the audience a little unsure as to whether it was the interval or not. It was then announced that it was in fact the interval and we were all asked to leave for 20 minutes.

Set design was by Molly Hawkins who is a UK-based visual artist. I loved the simple set of the decrepit theatre with broken piano, telephone seat, candlestick telephone, a small model of the stage itself and gorgeous paintings with eyes looking through the walls of the theatre. The window was used to great effect and is actually the first time I have seen it utilised during all my reviews at the Alma.

The production was directed by Shane Morgan (Director of RoughHouse Theatre and Associate Director of The Rhondo Theatre, Bath, among many other credits) and produced by another Red Rope Theatre Founder, Lois Grinter. Lighting and Sound was by Mark Riden and Image Design by Rhys Williams.

As is typical with this play, it was confusing and difficult to follow, and at the end a friend with whom I attended the performance said: “That was great. No idea what it was all about, but it was great!” I had to agree however, it was a very intense and thoroughly enjoyable production.

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