A lesser known Tennessee Williams play, the script for The Fat Man’s Wife was only discovered in 2000 and this performance marks its UK premiere.
Vera (Emma Taylor) is trapped in a loveless marriage with Joe (Richard Stephenson Winter) but finds solace in the company of Dennis (Damien Hughes) at a New Year’s Eve party. When they return home, her husband ‘goes to get some aspirin’ and then Dennis shows up… Will Vera take a risk and escape, or will she choose to remain safe?
With just three actors and a small space, the play’s drama is enhanced by the audience’s proximity to the action. Director Russell Lucas has utilised the cosiness (viewers actually feel as though they’re sitting in the Cartwright’s lounge) to bring the audience even closer to the action than normal, seating them on the stage and on the floor as the action takes place at many levels.
The cast is a strong one and viewers can really feel the awkwardness of the situation through Taylor’s body language and the way she portrays her emotions. The tension is almost unbearable, but at the same time quite funny in places as her reactions change and she fights with her feelings towards both men.
Hughes is excellent as the playwright who’s suddenly had some success and is taken with an older woman. He comes across well – naive, awkward and keen – and you can really feel his confusion by the situation as he tries to figure out why things aren’t going his way.
Stephenson Winter somehow manages to make his character come across as pitiful, even though he is neglecting his wife. Delivering his lines drily he shows us that his character feels both guilt and respect towards his wife who will never leave him, despite all his faults.
At just under an hour, The Fat Man’s Wife is the perfect length and well worth a watch. The story itself is well-written, but the direction, acting and staging all help to intensify the production and deliver a great evening’s entertainment.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
20th February 2014
The Fat Man’s Wife plays at the Canal Cafe until 2 March 2014.
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