The Kings Head Theatre's acclaimed revival of Tennessee Williams' autobiographical play Vieux Carré, which ended a sold-out run on Saturday, is to transfer to the West End to Charing Cross Theatre from Tuesday August 14 for a strictly limited three-week season.
Hildegard Neil will take over the central role of Mrs Wire and the show will be redirected for the new theatre. The press night is Wednesday August 15 at 7.30pm.
Director Robert Chevara said: "This transfer is an exciting and inspired vindication of the play and of our production. Vieux Carré' is a play I believe in passionately as a great piece of theatre and a seminal late work by Tennessee Williams. We see here a master at the top of his game, who experimented with style and content until the end of his life. The later plays don't have the same linear drive as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but they experiment with form, style and narrative in an equally thrilling way. Misunderstood at the time, today the diverse and visionary influences of avant-garde theatre,
Ortonesque slapstick and Theatre of the Absurd make these late pieces feel incredibly modern and edgy.
"Hildegard Neil, who played Miss Carrie, one of the starving old ladies, at the King's Head Theatre, is taking over the role of Mrs Wire. We are thrilled to have an actress of her stature assuming this pivotal leading role. It is one of the pillars of the production and she brings to it glamour, command and integrity. On film, Hildegard played Cleopatra opposite Charlton Heston in his wonderful 1972 version of Antony and Cleopatra and the lead in Graham Greene's England Made Me opposite Michael York and Peter Finch. On stage, she was a leading company member at rhe RSC throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She is married to the distinguished actor Brian Blessed. The play will take a totally different direction with Hildegard as Mrs Wire and I will re-interpret it for the unique and much larger new space of the Charing Cross Theatre."
Not seen in London for 34 years, Vieux Carré is about an aspiring young writer, and the bizarre, poignant and funny characters he encounters at a New Orleans boarding house. Written with his characteristic passion and compassion for the damaged and dispossessed, Vieux Carré is in many ways the condensation of all Tennessee Williams' plays, yet it is unique in its depiction of his loneliness, despair and longing for something new. Many of his other great plays delve into his mother's story, or the events of his sister Rose's tragic life – this one is a search for Williams' own truth as he tried to understand it. Stripped bare of the huge sets and endless scene changes that have dwarfed previous productions, the inmates of '722 Toulouse Street' in the French Quarter of New Orleans come into dazzlingly sharp focus.They include Mrs Wire, the young writer's demented, manipulative landlady; Nightingale, an older, predatory, tubercular artist who refuses to accept his condition; Jane, a New Rochelle society girl dying of leukemia; her sexually ambiguous, drug-addicted lover Tye, who works as a bouncer in a strip club; Mary Maud and Miss Carrie, two eccentric elderly women who literally are starving to death; and a gay photographer with a passion for orgies.
The production is directed by Robert Chevara and produced by the King's Head Theatre, whose previous productions include the world premiers of two Tennessee Williams plays - I Never get dressed till after dark on Sundays and A Cavalier For Milady, the London premiere of Arnold Wesker's Denial, the Peter Gill season at Riverside Studios, the Edward Bond season 2010 at The Cock Tavern and the Olivier award-winning La Boheme at The Cock Tavern, King's Head Theatre and Soho Theatre.