IT’S NOT essential but it helps a play’s authenticity when the people involved in a production are of the world it depicts. This is partly why the Old Vic’s 2008 production of starring Hollywood sons Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum as two Hollywood sons of bitches might have been the best night I’ve had at the theatre.
And knowing that American stage star Cherry Jones was born in Tennessee and raised less than a two- hour drive from where the matriarch in Tennessee Williams’s breakthrough play of 1944 was raised, gives John Tiffany’s production an extra layer of integrity.
In her overdue London debut, Jones plays ageing southern belle Amanda Wingfield, the mother of crushingly shy Laura (Kate O’Flynn) and Tom (Michael Esper), her aspiring writer son whose meagre earnings are all that keeps his family from the streets of 1930s St Louis. They were abandoned by his father, a telephone company worker who “fell in love with long distance.”
This is Tom’s story. And although he describes himself as being the opposite of a magician, “he gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion,” the way he conjures the characters that haunt his memory is pure sorcery, especially when his sister Laura is pulled through the upholstery of the family’s sofa.
Bob Crowley’s shadowy design is most memorable for the dingy apartment’s towering fire-escape that soars into the pitch-black, night sky. Less successful is the sliver of moon that is more like a shark’s fin than a celestial body. But, apart from that, the deliberate artifice of Williams’s set-up morphs into utterly convinc-