BWW Reviews: THE FAT MAN'S WIFE, Canal Cafe Theatre, February 15 2014
THE FAT MAN'S WIFE, the latest of prolific American playwright Tennessee Williams's one act plays, was only discovered among his writings in 2000, 27 years after he died. Now, 14 years later, Little Venice's Canal Café Theatre is hosting the UK premiere. Written in the 1930s, this play about a failing marriage shows the beginnings of themes Williams would go on to explore throughout his career.
Vera Cartwright (Emma Taylor) is the eponymous heroine, married to theatre producer and philanderer Joe (Richard Stephenson Winter). After a drunken new year's eve party offers her a glimpse of a different life, she has to decide whether to remain trapped in a marriage that's falling apart or take the lifeline offered by young writer Dennis (Damien Hughes).
The play offers a moving depiction of a failed, loveless marriage, one where habit ties husband and wife together, seemingly unable to understand why they are together and yet unable to see a way to part, each aware of the other's shortcomings, but recognising that this is the lot they've drawn.
Taylor's melancholic performance works well in the intimate living room that forms the centrepiece of Russell Lucas's production, the audience tucked in around the edges, eyewitnesses to the tragedy.
There's a palpable tension in the air when she shares the stage with Winter, and when the young writer comes to try and take her away the audience is almost willing her on.
Damien Hughes is effective as the lovestruck young suitor, always aware that his time is running out - but full of youthful confidence that love will win through.
All three are able to develop their characters in such a short period of time. Despite a running time of just 55 minutes, Lucas's direction offers the text time to breathe. The story doesn't feel rushed at all.
Although not flawless, it would be petty to try and pick holes in the production. The accents aren't always easy to place (particularly that of Dennis) but ultimately this doesn't distract from the storytelling.
THE FAT MAN'S WIFE is a fine example of quality of William's writing. Even if it is nearly 80 years too late, it's deserving of its chance to finally get an audience.