Summer and Smoke

Original London West End Production at Duchess Theatre 1952

1st London West End Revival at the Apollo Theatre 2006

2nd London West End Revival at the Duke of York's Theatre 2018

Play by Tennessee Williams. Set in the small insular town of Glorious Hill, Mississippi, in America's Deep South during 1916, Summer and Smoke is a gripping story of smouldering attraction, miscommunication and repressed passion. It is here that Alma Winemiller, a proper young Southern belle, has long adored John, the charismatic but dissolute son of her neighbour and the town's respected doctor. As the drama unfolds in this tale of longing and unrequited love, lives are changed in a way that none of those involved could ever have predicted.

"Be honest with me. One time I said 'no' to something. You may remember the time, and all that demented howling from the cock-fight. But now I have changed my mind, or the girl who said 'no', she doesn't exist anymore, she died last summer - suffocated in smoke from something on fire inside her. No, she doesn't live now, but she left me her ring - You see? This one you admired, the topaz ring set in pearls... And she said to me when she slipped the ring on my finger - 'Remember I died empty-handed, and so make sure that your hands have something in them!" I said, 'But what about pride?' - She said, 'Forget about pride whenever it stands between you and what you must have!' And then I said, 'But what if he doesn't want me?' I don't know what she said then. I'm not sure whether she said anything or not - her lips stopped moving - yes, I think she stopped breathing."

Summer and Smoke was made into a film in 1961 starring Geraldine Page, Laurence Harvey and Rita Moreno which was nominated for four Academy Awards.

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; Suddenly Last Summer; and The Glass Menagerie.


Summer and Smoke - Original London West End Production 1952 with Margaret Johnston and William Sylvester

Opened 22 November 1951, Closed 22 December 1951 at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
Opened 24 January 1952, Closed 1 March 1952 at the Duchess Theatre

The cast featured Margaret Johnston as 'Alma Winemiller' and William Sylvester as 'John Buchanan Jr.', with Sheldon Allan as 'Vernon', Maria Britneva as 'Rosemary', Gaylord Cavallaro as 'Dusty', Reginald Dyson as 'Papa Gonzales', Sheila Shand Gibbs as 'Nellie Ewell', Barabara Graley as 'Pearl', Allan Jeayes as 'Rev Winemiller', Megs Jenkins as 'Mrs Winemiller', Wensley Pithey as 'Dr Buchanan', Peter Sallis as 'Roger Doremus', Harry Towb as 'Archie Kramer', Ingeborg Wells as 'Rosa Gonzales', and Joan Young as 'Mrs Bassett'.

Directed by Peter Glenville with sets by Reece Pemberton and costumes by William Chappell.

Staged in West London at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, this production then transferred to the West End's Duchess Theatre for a short five week run.


Summer and Smoke - 1st London West End Revival 2006 with Rosamund Pike and Chris Carmack

Previewed 11 October 2006, Opened 18 October 2006, Closed 25 November 2006 at the Apollo Theatre in London

A major revival of Tennessee Williams' classic 1948 drama Summer and Smoke in London starring Rosamund Pike and Chris Carmack and directed by Adrian Noble

The cast featured Rosamund Pike as 'Alma Winemiller' and Chris Carmack as 'John Buchanan Jr.', with Sebastian Abineri as 'Papa Gonzales', Michael Brown as 'Dusty' / 'Vernon' / 'Archie Kramer', Angela Down as 'Mrs Winemiller', David Killick as 'Dr Buchanan', Tom Lawrence as 'Roger Doremus', Kate O'Toole as 'Mrs Bassett', Christopher Ravenscroft as 'Rev Winemiller', Talulah Riley as 'Nellie', Hanne Steen as 'Rosa', and Hannah Stokely 'Pearl' / 'Rosemary'.

Directed by Adrian Nobel with set designs by Peter McKintosh, costumes by Deirdre Clancy, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by John Leonard.

Rosamund Pike was last seen on stage in London in Hitchcock Blonde for which she received outstanding critical acclaim, she also appeared in the film James Bond - Die Another Day. Chris Carmack is best known for his role as 'Luke' in the hit American television series The OC. He has recently appeared off Broadway in Entertaining Mr Sloane.

"This hugely welcome revival of Tennessee Williams's Summer And Smoke gives us a rare glimpse of one of his lesser-known plays. All the hallmarks are here-the shy spin-ster unable to cope with the outside world, the dragon mother, the hovering fear ofinsanity - which are set against the usual Williams backdrop of a sticky, decaying, claustropho-bic Deep South... Chris Carmack, making his West End stage debut, superbly captures what the author called for 'A man brilliantly and restlessly alive in a stagnant society'... Adrian Noble's production wonderfully captures the steamy, hot-house intensity and he draws from a large supporting cast, led by performances of tremendous dramatic firepower from Angela Down and David Killick... There are fireworks but a lot of the first act is Williams Lite. In the second half however you get those moments of heart-clenching emotion as the two central characters realise they are trapped in birdcages of their own psychiatric construction... A fear of sexual contact is what Miss Alma and the play are about, and it is typical of Williams's tragic irony that she discovers her need for physical intimacy at the moment when she loses the one man who can provide her with it." The Daily Express

"Rosamund Pike's performance as a parson's daughter in early 20th century Mississippi is one of the best things of the West End year. Miss Pike is magnificent, imperious, brilliant, superb - throw at her every superlative in the critic's Oyer-mined cupboard, for all I care. In this show, she's the tops. Tennessee Williams's Summer and Smoke is not often performed, but I can't understand why. It is an elegy to the cruelty of frustrated love and it shows how sometimes the virtuous path can lead to ruin, the ruinous to virtue, and how the two can fail to collide... Some of the blocking is a touch wooden. Chris Carmack is undoubtedly a raw slice of trouser, but maybe he could exude an ounce more bestial cunning. Miss Pike, though, catches perfectly the restraint, the giggling anxiety, the guilty hunger of a young woman trying to live to the morals of a 'flock of old people'. That makes Alma's downfall all the sadder." The Daily Mail

"Now that the subjugation of women has again resumed front-page status, Tennessee Williams's rare play Summer and Smoke has more social relevance than one at first assumes. But during its first half this play seems to be a minor version of something better... But this is a play on a slow burn, and its final scenes are superb. It demonstrates many of the virtues that make Williams one of the supreme playwrights of the 20th century... Rosamund Pike reveals in Alma a deeply affecting blend of pathos, nobility and eloquence. Beautiful and fragile in looks, she plays the role with riveting focus. She is perfectly contrasted with the American actor Chris Carmack, with his fallen-angel charm and his mixture of sensual abandon and painful embarrassment. There is more than one kind of heartbreak in this play: 'All rooms are lonely where there is only one person.'" The Financial Times

Summer and Smoke in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 11 October 2006, opened on 18 October 2006 and closed on 25 November 2006


Summer and Smoke - 2nd London West End Revival 2018 with Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham

Previewed 24 February 2018, Opened 7 March 2018, Closed 7 April 2018 at the Almeida Theatre
Previewed 10 November 2018, Opened 20 November 2018, Closed 19 January 2019 at the Duke of York's Theatre

A major revival of Tennessee Williams' classic 1948 drama Summer and Smoke in London starring Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham - transfers to the West End's Duke of York's Theatre following an acclaimed season at the Almeida Theatre in North London

The cast featured Patsy Ferran as 'Alma Winemiller' and Matthew Needham as 'John Buchanan Jr.', with Seb Carrington as 'Archie Kramer', Nancy Crane as 'Mrs Winemiller' / 'Mrs Bassett', Eric MacLennan as 'Papa Gonzales' / 'Vernon', Forbes Masson as 'Rev Winemiller' / 'Dr Buchanan', Tok Stephen as 'Roger Doremus' / 'Dusty', and Anjana Vasan as 'Rosemary' / 'Rosa Gonzales' / 'Nellie' - who all reprised their roles from the Almeida Theatre season.

Directed by Rebecca Frecknell with designs by Tom Scutt, lighting by Lee Curran, muic by Angus MacRae and sound by Carolyn Downing.

Patsy Ferran's West End theatre credits include Michael Blakemore's revival of Noel Coward's comedy Blithe Spirit starring Angela Lansbury at the Gielgud Theatre in 2014. Matthew Needham's London theatre credits include Richard Jones' production of Anne Washburn's stage adaptation of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone at the Almeida Theatre in 2017.

When this production opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in November 2018, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "Rebecca Frecknall's interpretation is revelatory... Instead of burdening it with the fussy naturalism that's plagued several previous productions, she conjures an impressionistic atmosphere... Patsy Ferran's performance as Alma is fascinatingly detailed... Matthew Needham traces John's development with careful sensitivity." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph thought that "I doubt we'll see a more compelling staging of this underrated work or a lead performance more cherishable than 28-year-old Patsy Ferran's as the sweetly anguished Alma... On the strength of this she looks set to go on to join the ranks of our finest actors... And there's equivalent subtlety from Matthew Needham as the brooding alpha male, whose eyes brim as his own demons leave him vanquished too." Dominic Maxwell in the Times praised how "Rebecca Frecknall’s production proves a revelation... Frecknall strips away the scenery and rewires realism. She ropes in the power of our imaginations for a story that is so much about what is going on inside the heads of the two young protagonists circling round each other one long, hot summer... This approach calls for exceptional performances — and Frecknall gets them." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times wrote that it was "illuminated by a glorious central performance from Patsy Ferran... Rebecca Frecknall, too, makes an impact in her first major London production, opting for a powerful expressionist staging" that "strips it of almost all the overwrought symbolism and leaves us with individuals and their innermost workings." Neil Norman in the Daily Express commented that "Rebecca Frecknall's astonishing production of Tennessee Williams' play fully deserves its place in the West End following a sell-out run at the Almeida... But in the shift to a bigger and more conventional space, the delicately heated atmosphere is coarsened and a certain innocence is lost. Yet it still remains a marvel of theatre and there's much to admire."

When this production originally opened at the Almeida Theatre in March 2018, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph praised "Rebecca Frecknall's revelatory revival... rush to see this now, or live to regret it." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times described how, "with no props save a few wooden chairs, Rebecca Frecknall's spellbinding, stripped-back staging summons up the suffocating heat of a sweltering summer in small-town Mississippi and wraps us in the febrile longing that overtakes the central characters. Brilliantly acted," Alma "is played by the superlative Patsy Ferran... it’s an outstanding, beautifully detailed performance, matched by Matthew Needham’s excellent, supple John, who moves like a cat and conveys a multitude of instincts warring within him." Michael Billington in the Guardian highlighted how the "young director Rebecca Frecknall, has given it a complete makeover. Eschewing realism, she adopts the expressionist tactics favoured by the Belgian director Ivo van Hove and palpably builds the production around Patsy Ferran, who confirms her status as one of the most exciting actors on the British stage... It restores Williams' wrongly neglected play to a central place in the canon." Ann Treneman in the Times said that "this production of Tennessee Williams' play about love and lust is a sizzler. Patsy Ferran is sensational as Miss Alma... Rebecca Frecknall directs a delicate and moving portrait of repression and attraction, all the more powerful for the way that the stage has been stripped bare by the designer Tom Scutt. It's an ensemble cast, all excellent." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail said that "Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham are superb as the young not-quite lovers." Neil Norman in the Daily Express explained how "the configuration of director, cast and designer is harmoniously aligned to create theatrical magic... Rebecca Frecknall’s production is spare, inventive and as perfect as can be... the performers are so good they make you cry... utterly intoxicating." Holly Williams in the i newspaper wrote that Patsy Ferran "is a genuine marvel, as hilarious as she is heart-breaking. And as Alma in Williams' rarely performed 1948 play, she's hit a real high note. In fact, Rebecca Frecknall's whole production seems to tremble like a sustained high note: fragile, uncertain, almost unbearably tense... An evening that makes a case for this play, announces Frecknall as a director of real vision and confirms Ferran as one of our finest actresses." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard explained that "large chunks of this are essentially a two-hander, but Rebecca Frecknall’s try-hard production leaves both the surrounds and surrounding characters looking diminished in the first half. Without the people and places that define and constrain both Alma and John being adequately fleshed out, the central relationship lacks heft and context."

"Alma adores John, her doctor neighbour, and maybe he adores her right back, but neither can say so when it matters. The play’s aching heart emerges in Rebecca Frecknall’s shiveringly beautiful production... The treacle-tinted air hangs heavy, and two sublime actors hold the story's core. Alma might seem all spirit, John all carnality, but they’re each far more complicated, more vulnerable than that. He can’t give a compliment without wincing; she can’t receive one without a shudder. Time holds its breath when they’re together." The Sunday Times

"In this elegant revival of Tennessee Williams's Mississippi-set work of 1948, Patsy Ferran plays Alma, the outwardly prim, inwardly passionate daughter of a minister who falls for Johnny, the hell-raising son of the town's doctor... Ferran pours such a reservoir of talent into the role, she turns Alma into one of the great heroines of 20th-century theatre. This is a love story at heart, but a far from sentimental one. In the teasing company of Matthew Needham's bad boy Johnny (Needham is also superb) Ferran's Alma is a bag of nerves and involuntary laughter. Yet out of this twitching wren of anxiety a towering strength of character emerges... To the accompaniment of Angus MacRae's simple but effective mood music, Ferran's Alma embodies a soulful, intellectually-aspiring approach to life that is the opposite of Johnny's wild, cynical take. Ferran brings a fragile nobility to the battle between high-mindedness and cynicism that makes her performance among the most moving you will ever see." The Metro

"'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" is the way leading lady Alma sums up the difference between her holy outlook on life, compared to bad-boy womaniser John's. Tennessee Williams's neglected play spends two gut-wrenching hours jumping out of the stage with majestic dialogue to rival even Oscar Wilde's. Patsy Ferran's performance as cleric's daughter Alma is exhaustingly complicated yet precise, as she encapsulates her giddy infatuation with John, played by Matthew Needham. Their simmering passion grows in intensity throughout the stripped-back play, setting this sweltering summer in small-town Mississippi alight. Director Rebecca Frecknall's production doesn't need a fancy plot to detract from its remarkable script." The Sunday Mirror

Summer and Smoke in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 10 November 2018, opened on 20 November 2018, and closed on 19 January 2019