Pros: Some of the best acting I’ve seen in a while with astounding performances by every single cast member. There was no weak link.
Cons: Uncomfortable seating was the only downside to this otherwise fantastic production.
The last time I was at The White Bear Theatre in Kennington was for a performance of The Duchess of Malfi. I was studying the play at the time, and the production brought the play to life, helping me through some very daunting essays! So I was excited to head back without looming exams.
Women of Twilight returns to The White Bear Theatre after a successful run in October 2013 and it is easy to see why it’s back so soon. This play was written in 1951 yet forgotten for much of the time since then. Women of Twilight is a show with an all-female cast. It deals with unmarried women seeking shelter and support, but instead falling into the hands of the wicked “baby farming landlady”. By no means a happy play, the strength of emotions portrayed and the injustices these women experience is hard-hitting and powerful to watch.
The cast astounded me; in the group of eleven performers, there was not a single weak link. I was engrossed from the very beginning, finding myself completely immersed as the gritty tale developed. This was due to the strength of acting. One particularly strong performance was from Sally Mortemore as Mrs Allistair, the cruel landlady. She played the role of this sinister and malicious woman incredibly well, and left a chill down my spine every time she exited the stage. Claire Louise Amis as Vivianne was also sensational; after her husband is hanged for murder, the emotion was so raw and powerful that many in the audience were wiping their eyes. Her run of bad luck continues with the loss of a child while in her care and her own horrific treatment by Mrs Allistair. It was during these traumatic situations that the action portrayed on stage overpowered many audience members. It is rare to see acting with such real and intense emotion.
The set itself was also brilliant; it depicts a dingy basement with sagging beds, dirty walls, and little comfort. This perfectly sets the scene for the grim drama that takes place. I overheard a woman in the audience comment on how accurate it was, having been bought up in the 50’s herself. The lighting also worked well, particularly at the end where it seemingly became darker during the plays climatic moments.
There was little use of music during this production, with the radio being put on by some characters as part of the drama and songs between scenes. This worked well as the action was so engrossing that music was not needed to add to the tension, a testament again to the quality of acting.
The only thing that slightly dampened this performance for me was the uncomfortable seating. Encouraged to move up to make more room for new audience members arriving I found myself practically sitting on the person next to me. I think maybe just one less person on each row would have made the whole experience more comfortable!
In a review from the 1950’s, Women of Twilight was accused of being “the most hysterical play I have met for many years”, now thankfully dismissed as a sexist view. For me this play demonstrates all kinds of women coping in horrific situations – not hugely different from the situations many modern women have to deal with. While this was a forgotten play for many years, I’m glad it as been revived and hope that it is not neglected again.
Author: Sylvia Rayman
Director: Jonathan Rigby
Producer: 11F Company
Booking Until: 26th January 2014
Box Office: 0844 8700 887
Booking Link: http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/search/searchVenueDetails.asp?venue_id=35089