Clive Owen Is The Original ‘Hot’ Priest In The Night Of The Iguana

The Night Of The Iguana, Noël Coward Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 14 months ago

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Clive Owen Is The Original ‘Hot’ Priest In The Night Of The Iguana The Night Of The Iguana, Noël Coward Theatre 3
(c) Brinkhoff.Moegenburg

While Tennessee Williams' plays are known for their sympathetic female characters, it can become a bit more problematic with male leads. Clive Owen’s defrocked priest might be lost and seeking shelter, desperate for meaning and human warmth — and finding it in all the wrong places — but with a strong vein of misogyny and sexual violence, the kind of saltiness that Williams specialises in can look pretty toxic today.

(c) Brinkhoff.Moegenburg

The other issue in this 1961 play — commonly regarded as William’s last good, if not great, play — is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. A highly strung Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon arrives at a Mexican boarding house along with an impoverished old poet and his grand-daughter, who seem to offer some glimpse of salvation. If there is a dramatic question in the play, it is whether Shannon can find peace and avoid a seemingly inevitable crisis in his losing battle between religion and desire.

(c) Brinkhoff.Moegenburg

Its lack of dramatic drive does, however, let us luxuriate in the atmospherics and some great lines — as long as we ignore the clichéd Nazi tourists and indolent Mexicans. Owen’s channeling of a kind of inner Nicholas Cage does a good job at conveying a man whose spirit seems to be fighting to escape his own body. A wonderfully composed performance by Lia Williams gives us the opposite of Shannon’s twitchiness. Her kindred spirit’s conflict with Maxine Faulk’s sensuousness to ‘save’ Shannon eventually resolves with Julian Glover’s final poem. Its haunting lines finally lifts proceedings above the storminess on stage and is a moving conclusion.

(c) Brinkhoff.Moegenburg

The Night Of The Iguana, Noël Coward Theatre, 85-88 St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4AP. Tickets from £17.50, until 28 September 2019.

Last Updated 18 July 2019