★★★★★ | Sweet Bird Of Youth

I have to confess that I attended The Old Vic with a sense of dread. As much as I love Kim Cattrall, as good a reputation as the theatre has, I couldn’t help but think that this was going to disappoint me.

The problem is that I’m a massive fan of Tennesse Williams and love the 1962 film version of “Sweet Bird of Youth” and who could match the powerful performances of Paul Newman and Geraldine Page? I was wrong to doubt them. This was an awe inspiring piece of theatre which left me breathless and wanting more.

The play opens with ageing actress Princess Kosmonopolis (Kim Cattrall) passed out drunk in a hotel bedroom whilst her companion, gigolo Chance Wayne (Seth Numrich) paces nervously, swigging vodka. Chance is a drifter and opportunist with a string of misdemeanours and failures and has hooked up with the Princess (a pseudonym) who is in hiding after a disastrous film premiere, to enable him to return to his hometown in search of the girl he left behind there.

Both characters are self proclaimed monsters with insecure vanities and fears and regrets. They’re incredibly likeable and attractive monsters though and they manage to reflect the foibles we all have to greater or lesser extents. Numrich is delectable and as he swaggers and lurches about the stage he exudes a fragile masculinity, tinged with vulnerability. He’s also incredibly attractive and has a body which made me shuffle in my seat. Cattrall preens, lurches, has tantrums and breakdowns and is utterly convincing in her role as she wanders round in disarray, popping little pink pills and swigging liquor. The two leads are both exceptional and are well supported by a large cast.

The staging is also worth commenting on with a versatile and stylish set which transforms from hotel bedroom, to bar room to Southern mansion exterior.

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I’d definitely recommend this play. It’s an absolute tour de force and a stunning take on a rarely seen classic play.

‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ runs at The Old Vic until: 31st of August 2013