Suddenly Last Summer

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Previewed 6 May 2004, Opened 14 May 2004, Closed 31 July 2004 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London.

Michael Grandage's revival of Tennesse Williams' Suddenly Last Summer in London starring Dame Diana Rigg and Victoria Hamilton.

Sebastian died suddenly last summer. His mother clings to him in death as she clung to him in life. In the sultry heat of New Orleans she plans her act of revenge on the girl she believes stole Sebastian from her. Tennessee Williams is theatre's poet of impossible love and this, one of his finest plays, is given a new production by Sheffield Theatres' award-winning Associate Director, Michael Grandage.

The cast for Suddenly Last Summer in London stars Diana Rigg as 'Violet Venable' (except 30 June to 2 July) and Victoria Hamilton as 'Catherine' along with Abigail McKern, Mark Bazeley, Patrick Kennedy, Virginia Denham and Jennifer McEvoy. Directed by Michael Grandage with designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Howard Harrison and music and sound by Adam Cork. This production comes to London's West End following a successful season at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre in February.

Tennessee Williams' other plays seen on stage in London's West End include Sweet Bird of Youth; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; The Night Of The Iguana; The Glass Menagerie; and Summer and Smoke.

"Formidable in her cunning, as played by Diana Rigg with the steely determination and mirthless humour of a possessive wealthy New Orleans grande dame, Violet has no scruples... Victoria Hamilton plays Catharine with a mixture of vulnerability and feistiness, while caught in a nightmare of incarceration in an asylum ruled by nuns... Michael Grandage's production is beautifully paced, and benefits from a wholly reliable supporting cast. The Southern drawl might prove problematic, and the sense of some of Williams's rich rushing torrents of words may not always be easy to catch." The Independent

"Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer packs a great deal into its 90 minutes... It would be absurd to stage such a piece in an understated manner, and Michael Grandage's touring production, now at the Albery (now called Noel Coward Theatre), sails confidently over the top. Christopher Oram's set is hemmed in by sinister vegetation. Adam Cork's soundtrack supplies menacing music and strange animal shrieks. Diana Rigg hams it up as Mrs Venable with a gusto of which Joan Crawford or Bette Davis might have been proud. It is left to Victoria Hamilton as Catherine to strike the one deeper note: she relives her past with a true tragic intensity. But for the rest, the play remains a curiosity - gaudy, theatrical, not to be taken too seriously." The Sunday Telegraph

"Christopher Oram's design is masterful, a vast carnivorous plant enclosing its little human flies... Leading the predators is Diana Rigg, carrying herself like the consummate grande dame, the Southern belle whose erotic powers have not disappeared with age... Next to Rigg and her old-fashioned purple finery, Victoria Hamilton looks like prey. She plays Catharine as a person without a shell, a woman already half devoured by her own family and her sexual past, the process of eradicating her own personality well under way. It's a febrile and perfectly pitched performance, fear never spilling over into overwrought hysteria, the traces of the person she once was just visible through the medication." The Sunday Times

Suddenly Last Summer in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 6 May 2004, opened on 14 May 2004 and closed on 31 July 2004.

Suddenly Last Summer with Rachel Weisz and Sheila Gish 1999

Previewed 8 April 1999, Opened 14 April 1999, Closed 10 July 1999 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London

Sean Mathias' revival of Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer in London starring Rachel Weisz and Sheila Gish

Mrs Venable feels ousted from prime place in her son's life by his new companion, Catherine. After his death she is determined to wreak a violent revenge, but gradually it unfolds how little she knew or understood her son. In the oppressive heat of a New Orleans summer the horrifying truth about his savage death is revealed...

Tennessee Williams's chilling study of motherly love and jealousy provoked by a rival for a son's affections is one of the century's most haunting and atmospheric dramas.

The cast features Rachel Weisz as 'Catherine' and Sheila Gish as 'Violet Venable' along with Patricia Boyer, Gerard Butler, Johanna Kirby, Tim Mathews and Julia Swift. Directed by Sean Mathias designs by Tim Hatley and music by Jason Carr. Sean Mathias' credits include the play Cowardice.

"Violet Venable, an unstable, monstrous matriarch, is out to kill. Her prey is Catharine, her niece. Catharine knows too much about Violet's beloved dead son; she knows how he lived and how he died. So Violet has hired a lobotomist to cut the unlovely story out of her brain. We're in familiar Tennessee Williams territory; his heartfelt subjects are sex, depravity, repression and traumatised souls. This time, there's a bit of incest, cannibalism and torture thrown in... Sheila Gish is in her element as the faded, vain, poisonous Southern belle who slurps daiquiris through the side of her mouth that still functions following the stroke which made her son reject her. Despite this, she still entertains the illusion that she and her son were a golden couple. Few actresses can deliver, as Gish can, such utterances as 'It wasn't folie de grandeur, it was grandeur', with a conviction that inspires terror rather than ridicule. Rachel Weisz is compelling as Catharine, the focus of her mother's greed, her aunt's envy, her carer's brutality. Her quiet toughness, her restraint and her refusal to be made into a victim make her climactic account of Sebastian's death plausible despite its gothic horror. A savage, sweaty, tense 90 minutes with no interval, perfectly pitched." The Mail on Sunday

Suddenly Last Summer in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 8 April 1999, opened on 14 April 1999 and closed 10 July 1999