REVIEW: IN THE BAR OF A TOKYO HOTEL (Charing Cross Theatre)
In The Bar Of A Tokyo hotel is one of Tennessee Williams least performed plays. Premiering in New York in 1969 (where is ran for only twenty five performances), it has rarely been performed since and sadly it is easy to see why.
The interesting thing about this play is the way Tennessee Williams wrote it. Lines are often only half delivered and then trail off, leaving the audience to try to work out the rest of the words. This becomes confusing and became annoying by the second act. The theatre programme states: “Let’s pay attention to the actors unfinished sentences. Connect to the Japanese idea that the reader completes the meaning of a haiku”. It is an interesting concept to write a play, set in Tokyo, the way a Japanese writer would write. Sadly, the idea doesn’t translate well into British society.
Linda Marlowe barely leaves the stage as Miriam, the artists wife who is trying to leave her husband but has followed her to Tokyo. Her character is engaging but lines seemed to be stumbled on several times. Miriam hates almost everything in life. She hates flowers, being told what to do and mostly her husband Mark. She does however have a liking towards the young barman of the hotel and bribes him with money to come to her table and allow her to fondle his manhood. This is probably done to show Miriam as a sexual cougar but I wonder what the reaction would be if the genders were reversed and it were an old man forcing a young girl to allow him to touch her unwillingly.
Andrew Koji plays the barman. The character is obviously supposed to be Japanese as his use of English is constantly corrected by Miriam. It is interesting that he delivers his lines with an American accent and not a Japanese one. David Whitworth plays artist Mark. An alcoholic painter, a tortured soul and a man who’s wife is encouraging his demise. His performance is good but it is hard to understand how much of his character is supposed to be frantic and uneasy and how much is the way the lines are delivered.
Alan Turkington plays New York Art Dealer, Leonard. His character is camp and fun but brings very little additional depth to the play and could have easily been omitted from the script. I left the theatre feeling incredibly sorry for actress Yasmine Maya who played the Hawaiian Lady. She walked across the stage twice and the closest thing to a line that she had was to stop and laugh for a moment. The character is again rather useless and brought nothing to the play. As an actress it must be a thankless role to play as is barely noticed.
In The Bar Of A Tokyo Hotel was pleasant to watch with an interestingly put together set, with a sloping stage and bar setting. However the story wasn’t very particularly exciting and characters seemed under developed. The direction, by Robert Chevara (whose previous production of Tennessee Williams ‘Vieux Carre’ is still one of the best plays I have ever seen) was brave and interesting but ultimately didn’t work for this type of audience.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Scott Rylander
In The Bar Of A Toyko Hotel plays at Charing Cross Theatre until 14 May 2016