The Night of the Iguana review – Noel Coward Theatre

4 star review

After last year’s triumphant Summer and Smoke, along comes another impressive Tennessee Williams revival to take up residence in the West End.

Clive Owen makes his return to the stage as the disgraced Reverend Shannon in this slow-burning drama set at a remote and run-down hotel in Mexico in 1940.

Dressed in a crumpled white linen suit, Owen’s Shannon is a dominating presence as soon as he appears on stage, talking incessantly, full of nervous energy and verging on a breakdown as a thunder storm brews in the skies above.

the night of the iguana - anna gunn as maxine faulk (c) brinkhoff.moegenburg.
Anna Gunn as Maxine Faulk (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

The hotel is run by the recently widowed Maxine Faulk (Anna Gunn), who wants Shannon for herself, despite his predeliction for underage girls. The atmosphere becomes highly charged at the arrival of impecunious artist Hannah Jelkes (Lia Williams) and her grandfather Nonno (Julian Glover), who she describes as “the world’s oldest living and practising poet”.

Both Gunn and Williams are stunningly good in their interactions with Owen’s Shannon. The sexual tension hangs in the air like a fine mist.

the night of the iguana - clive owen as rev. t. lawrence shannon and lia williams hannah jelkes (c) brinkhoff.moegenburg.
Clive Owen and Lia Williams (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

At some three hours long, James Macdonald’s production lets the intricate emotional beats play out slowly, especially in the second half.

Special mention must go Rae Smith’s impressive set. The ramshackle hotel verandah is created in loving detail while above it towers a craggy rock face and arching palm trees.

The thunder storm, when it arrives, is a cracker. And, in case you were wondering, there really is an iguana.

The Night of the Iguana is at the Noel Coward Theatre until 28 September

the night of the iguana company (c) brinkhoff.moegenburg.
The Night of the Iguana (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon is clearly a man with problems,

Summer and Smoke – Duke of York’s Theatre

You can almost feel the heat. With its stage bathed in orange light, this production of Tennessee Williams’ play – a transfer from the Almeida – brings a welcome blast of “August madness” to a wintery West End.

Summer and Smoke centres on vicar’s daughter Alma (Patsy Ferran) and her complex relationship with doctor John Buchanan (Matthew Needham).

The minimalist staging of Rebecca Frecknall’s production lets the lyricism and emotion shine through. The action takes place within a semi-circle of pianos – their innards revealed as if to reflect Alma’s exposed soul.

The cast is impressive throughout, but it’s Patsy Ferran’s performance that people will be talking about in years to come. I first interviewed Patsy when she won a Critics’ Circle Award for most promising newcomer in 2015. She kicked off my theatrical year in 2018 in Anoushka Warden’s excellent My Mum’s a Twat at the Royal Court.

Here’s she’s unforgettable from the play’s opening moment as Alma finds herself thrashing around in the grip of a panic attack. You can’t take your eyes off her for the next two hours.

I’ve already bought my tickets to see this remarkable talent in Frecknall’s Three Sisters at the Almeida in April. It can’t come soon enough.