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: ★★★☆☆