Theatre Review: I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark On Sundays

Victoria Rudland
By Victoria Rudland Last edited 88 months ago
Theatre Review: I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark On Sundays

Celebrating the centenary of Tennessee Williams’ birth, the Cock Tavern has won the rights to stage two of his heretofore unproduced works.  The first, written in the latter stages of Williams’ career, shortly after his release from rehab in 1970, is Hamish MacDougall’s
I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays,
which will be published for the first time at the end of the run on 26th March.

This gently heartbreaking production is a play-within-a-play, in which Tye (a masculine, bear-like Lewis Hayes) and Jane (tiny and delicate Shelley Lang) play two lovers struggling with each other through a fug of drugs, alcohol and sex in a rundown bedsit in a sleazy district of New Orleans.  Tye works at a strip-joint and answers to Fat Charlie, the gangster who runs the place.  Lazy, unreliable, selfish and promiscuous, he’s been living out of Jane’s pocket for the last seven months.  Jane, a ‘well-educated and reasonably well-brought up’ girl from New York, ex-actress and aspiring fashion designer, bemoans her decline into ‘degra-desperation’ and awaits the arrival of a Brazilian businessman who will pluck(/fuck) her out of poverty.

In the snug, intimate theatre of Kilburn’s Cock Tavern, actors playing the director, playwright and stage manager sit among the audience and give notes.  They’re in the last run-through before previews, but the actors aren’t taking it seriously.  None of them hold the playwright in much esteem, presumably a reflection of Williams’ own struggles with his reputation.  The actors continually break out of character to challenge the writing; Tye complaining of its ‘gratuitous prurience’, Jane cracking up in a raunchy scene, demanding to know ‘who talks like that?’  Hayes and Lang are as skilled at playing Tye and Jane as they are at playing the affected, self-centred actors playing those characters, and while their comical interruptions repeatedly break the spell and remind the audience of the mechanics behind making a play, they unfailingly draw us back in again and again. Driven to distraction by the constant disruptions, the harassed director (a furiously tight Cameron Harris) storms out, leaving the drunk playwright (Keith Myers – dry, patient and passionate) to guide the actors through the ending of the play, which takes us into an unexpected but not unwelcome zone of quietly beautiful, tender melancholy.

I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays runs until 26th March at The Cock Tavern Theatre, 125 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 6JH.  Tickets from £10.

Production shot by Richard Hubert Smith.

Last Updated 08 March 2011