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Review: Suddenly Last Summer at the Ensemble Theatre

Review by Lauren Donikian

Suddenly Last Summer is a one act play written by Tennessee Williams. It is the tale of a family mourning the loss of one of their own with secrets hidden and truth shared.

Acted in mainly soliloquies by its main cast this 90-minute play is dark and disturbing. It explores themes of wealth; greed and the lengths people will go to saving one’s reputation. Mrs Venable has lost her son Sebastian, she is distraught and will do anything to protect him. She blames his cousin Catharine for his death and has her committed to convince people not to trust her. She asks a doctor to perform a lobotomy so she will stop blabbing.

As you enter the theatre you are welcomed into a white and green escape. Clear rectangular cases filled with succulents, ferns, and venus fly traps are placed around the front of the stage with one in the center of it. These represent Sebastian’s’ garden where a lot of the play takes place. These are moved throughout the performance to provide seating for the cast and imply that they are in a different location. White curtains with green leaves hang and some are so sheer that it creates a haunting shadow when members of the cast stand behind it. All the cast besides Catharine wear white or cream clothing giving the impression that they are pure and innocent. Whereas Catharine is in a short red dress with red shoes which makes her look out of place, mischievous and hot headed.

Andrea Demetriades plays the role of Catharine, the woman guilty of spreading lies about her cousin. Demetriades uses her body to express the emotions the character is feeling at the time. Whether it is sitting on the ground like a child, holding herself to self soothe or standing tall when she is speaking up for herself. She is erratic in her movement, but this lends itself to the role. Belinda Giblin plays Mrs Venable, the mother of Sebastian and she is fascinating to watch. She explores many sides to her character and changes the tone of her voice based on which character she is talking to. Remy Hii plays the Doctor or Doctor Sugar as he would like to be called and plays this role cool, calm, and collected. There is a tenderness in the way he treats Demetriades’s Catharine. The remaining cast members are Socratis Otto who plays George, Catherines brother and Valerie Bader who plays their mother Mrs Holly, as well as Kate Skinner who plays two roles are not in the play as much but are present for most of it. Due to this it is hard to know whether they were playing their characters true to the text or put their own spin on it. Otto played George as someone that seemed more mentally unstable than his sister which made his agenda very clear. I would have liked to see more distinction between the two characters that Skinner plays. It would help the story more and give Skinner a chance to show off her acting skills.

I really wanted to love this play, but I couldn’t find it relatable in anyway. It does seem ahead of it’s time in that it subtlety hinted at themes of sexual exploitation, the masks we use to hide the truth and the ugly way we use people. But I feel like there are shows on television right now that explore these same issues and aren’t afraid to hide them. Like Succession and White Lotus, these characters are wealthy and give you so many reasons to hate them. However, unlike these shows there aren’t any redeeming qualities that make you ‘love to hate’ the characters that are portrayed.

Image Supplied


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