The Madness of Strangers

Elysian Fields is a new play produced as a part of the Glasgay Festival which this year examines the work of Tennessee Williams from every possible angle. This new work takes his death as his beginning and imagines the effect on his mind as his demons crowd in for one last mocking jibe before oblivion gives him the rest and peace which life never seemed to offer.

This is an hallucinatory landscape. Drink, drugs and bitter memories fight with one another for control of the waste land of the playwright’s mind. Grant Smeaton as Willams drawls his way from one extreme to the next extreme and on to the next. Pauline Goldsmith as Vivien Leigh brought sharp and piercing diction to bear on the pointed, rapier poetry of the text. Derek McLuckie played both of the playwright’s parents – each as overbearing in their way as the other. And a beautiful Richard Pears played poor Rose, Tennessee’s beleaguered sister.

Surrounding the leads was a chorus of three men who brought chaos, madness and drug-induced slumber to bear on a life disintegrating before our eyes.

At one time, gay men were, like other supposed ne’er-do-wells, injected, electrocuted, lobotomized and pathologised. This was a play about some of that madness, the madness of strangers.

As a society we have come far in learning to live with one another without decending to such barbarism.

Yet bitter reminders that we have not come far enough are still with us daily.

At The Arches 14-18 October 2008

Rating: ★★★☆☆


  1. Kelvin, do you like Gore Vidal? I always enjoyed his accounts of The Glorious Bird.

    Have read a few evangelical/conservatives who claim that homosexuality was unfairly(!) removed as a mental illness from the DSM by the APA. I think the latter, these days, are quite good at pointing out the damage that can be done by things like so-called reparative therapy.

  2. Robin says

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I’m sure there are those in the Anglican Communion today who would like to see such ‘treatments’ brought back.

  3. morag says

    I’ve never understood why homosexuality has been and still is in many parts illegal,throughout the world.I don’t understand why it is so feared.And not just in so called christian societies.
    The attrocities we humans commit on others beggars belief and makes we weep.It is hard enough being what society accepts as “normal” but be different,whether LBGT ,disabled,mental health problems etc and life just gets that little bit tougher.We do indeed have a long way to go and Robin, I hope you are wrong but I fear there probably are people around like that in the world

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