The one act play was written in 1958, but only made its Broadway debut in 1995 Johannes Hjorth

It is clear from the start of The Fletcher Players' production of Suddenly Last Summer at The Corpus Playroom that we are in for a disturbing evening. Something bad is going to happened, or has already happened and we kept wondering and worrying throughout. If you like your drama dark and horrifically unsettling, then this is a play you must not miss. In one of Tennessee Williams' most sinister works, he explores the most unpleasant aspects of human interactions, achieving the extreme psychological tension as much by what is left unsaid, as what is revealed.

The action is originally set in the Deep South, as the characters are overwhelmed by the humidity and heat. But this suffocation is merely a reflection of their sense of being trapped by their own secrets, and the events they are compelled never to mention. The language is poetic and rhythmic, with the cast handling the phrasing and the pauses with skill. The tightrope of interactions needs to be strung tightly, and in this slickly directed production the sense of impending doom cleverly overshadows everything else. As an audience we are kept frustrated and uninformed. We know that something has happened and we are reminded repeatedly, in a wistful fearful refrain that "then... suddenly, last summer...". But further details are kept from us. The cast are holding their secret and Zoe Black's brilliant direction makes us beg for more, while dreading actually to be told.

"You will leave exhausted, upset, and hugely impressed"Johannes Hjorth

With such a dark piece of writing, this play raises many questions about the constraints (or lack of) which surround student theatre. Should, for example, casting be gender or race specific? Should it matter which accents are used, or where a production is relocated? And how can undergraduates possibly be convincing in playing different generations of a family? Very commendably, Suddenly Last Summer shows that with courage and creativity, there are no limitations to what can be achieved.

It isn't important what we know, but rather what a play can make us believe and feel. Maya Achan, for example, is definitely not an elderly lady who has suffered a stroke, and Phoebe Segal is not her young niece. Yet, through their working of the script, their sincerity, and their understated focus, they can make us believe in their roles, luring us completely into the tension and hatred. And at times we even fear for Segal's safety - a perfect achievement for any piece of theatre.

"The entire Playroom seems to creak and close in under the growing tension of what will be revealed"

The level of darkness in the plot is difficult to explain fully without revealing too much. Violet, the elderly mother, has summoned Catharine (the niece), as she is concerned about her mental health. But we soon see that Catharine may be the only one of sound mind, and that the truth she knows is simply too horrifying for anyone to believe. The tortured ordeal of the truth-teller who cannot be heard is superbly captured, and the surrounding cast provide the subtle level of menace to make this more than just melodrama.

Roshan Ruprai, Isabella Oreffo, and Ed Bankes hold back just enough to convince us and keep us guessing as to their intentions. The claustrophobia is fed by the wonderful set and use of multimedia (Ed Bankes) and infuriatingly atmospheric lighting (David Horvath Franco) which sustain the physical and emotional oppression. The entire Playroom seems to creak and close in under the growing tension of what will be revealed.

Gloriously ambitious beyond what might ever be fully realised, this production aims high and hits hard. It is wonderful to see such a superb understanding of text, subtext and contemporary relevance. This isn't entertainment. It is theatre. And you will leave exhausted, upset, and hugely hugely impressed

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