With only one previous London run in 1983 and a couple of off Broadway stagings, it’s safe to say that this is one of Tennessee Williams’s lesser-known plays.
Sadly, it’s clear why this tale of artistic and emotional angst hasn’t attained the stature of masterworks like A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There’s little of the tension and passion we associate with Williams’s work here, while characters at first uninteresting, ultimately become just irritating, and the plot is as thin as a teahouse wall.
Linda Marlowe plays Miriam, a bored American who sits alone in a hotel bar in Tokyo and whiles away the time by clumsily flirting with a chaste barman. Upstairs, her physically and emotionally damaged painter husband Mark (David Whitworth) works furiously with little time for the wife he has dragged halfway across the world in the belief the location will offer artistic impetus.
David Whitworth as Mark and Linda Marlowe as Miriam
When the paint-stained and dishevelled Mark eventually shows his face, the pair lock horns. Miriam is suffocated by the relationship and wants out, so she drags Mark’s agent (Alan Turkington) from New York to mediate.
The opening moments, when the predatory Miriam tries to lure the barman from the straight and narrow, promise much. But when husband and agent arrive on the scene, it all becomes rapidly wearing. There’s little chemistry between the cast, the staccato dialogue and badly timed pauses make it all feel a bit am-dram and Marlowe’s accent seems to be New York via Albert Square and Sydney. The result is that we rapidly lose interest about what happens to these people.
While director Robert Chevara should be applauded for bringing this work to a new audience, there’s nothing here to suggest he has uncovered a neglected gem by a great playwright.
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel is at Charing Cross Theatre until 14th May
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