Being able to write a short one-act play is something that many people struggle with – you’ve got to introduce characters, a plot and conclusion in hardly any time at all. However, author Tennessee Williams was a firm believer in one-acts and experimented with the short form throughout his life.
In Four by Tenn, London Theatre Workshop has chosen to combine four of Williams’ short plays that have not been shown together, but which all loosely focus on the concept of fear. Two of them The Pretty Trap and Interior: Panic actually became two of his most famous plays, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Yet despite the underlying theme, these four plays are both humorous and touching, performed by a team of just six actors.
The two strongest plays The Pretty Trap and The Case of the Crushed Petunias give each of the actors the chance to portray a good range of emotions and Anna Kirke in particular shines in her roles as Amanda and Miss Simple. Both quite different characters, she captures the essence of each and her interpretation of Miss Simple’s transformation is wonderful to watch.
Although the acting in the other two plays is a bit wobbly in places, it is generally good. The use of one actor for multiple roles works very well, especially Harry Anton in Interior: Panic. His characterisation for each is completely different and his performance of Jack is truly excellent.
Actors not involved in a play drape and secrete themselves on stage amongst the countless props and costumes scattered around. Staging is simple but the small touches, such as a washing line of clothes strung across the stage, help to bring the plays to life.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
19th February 2014
Four by Tenn is playing at The Drayton Arms until 1 March 2014.
Click here for more information and to book tickets.