★★★★ | The Fat Man’s Wife
It’s the early hours of New Year’s Day 1938 and Vera and Joe are just getting in from a New York society party. They’re still drinking, still niggling at each other and Joe is still hankering after some more partying and looking for a way to extricate himself and join the young actress he’s been having an affair with. Complications arise when Dennis, a naïve young playwright, arrives unexpectedly to make Vera an offer that could free her from her troubled marriage to ‘the fat man’.
This absolute gem of a one-act play was only discovered in the papers of Tennessee Williams in 2000 and has never been performed in the U.K. before now. This is a rare opportunity to see a long hidden masterpiece. It has all the hallmarks of William’s work (the troubled marriage, the tortured souls and the heavy liquor consumption) as well as his lyrical yet tight dialogue. Surprisingly, it remains resonant today, with its themes of being trapped in a relationship that has changed out of all recognition since its rosy beginning.
The three-person cast are all excellent without a weak link and with a particularly powerful performance from Emma Taylor as Vera. She captures a range of emotional nuances whilst slinking about the stage in her peignoir and negligee, like a caged beast, finally beaten down by captivity but with her eye on the gaps in the bars.
The theatre itself is stunning in a beautiful location in Little Venice, just near to Warwick Avenue tube station. The only down side to the play being performed in such a beautiful old pub theatre, is the limitations this throws up. The seating was arranged in such a way that the audience felt a little obtrusive at times, but this is only a minor niggle. The actors managers to combat this finely and made the piece wholly believable.
I’d heartily recommend this to any Tennessee Williams fans but also to anyone who isn’t yet a fan, this is great one act play that is as good an introduction as anything.
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.