Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Conducted by Rowan Harvey-Martin and Max McBride
Llewellyn Hall, 7 December

Reviewed by Len Power

The final concert of Canberra Youth Orchestra’s 2019 concert series had everything you could ask for at Christmas - four varied and fascinating works, two fine conductors and a performance by an extraordinary young man on violin, Christian Li.

The concert commenced with “Romanian Rhapsody No. 2” by George Enescu.  Regarded by many as Romania’s most important and influential musician, Enescu composed his two Romanian Rhapsodies in 1901.

His second rhapsody is a beautifully melodic work with moments of quiet reflection that contrast with unexpectedly dramatic sections.  A lyrical dance leads to a haunting and delicate finale.  The orchestra under Max McBride started a little uncertainly but quickly gathered strength, giving a pleasing performance overall.

Canberra Youth Orchestra with Max McBride conducting

The second work, “The Perfect Fool” by Gustav Holst was, like his more famous “The Planets”, a highly visual work which was originally written for an opera called “The Perfect Fool” which was first performed in London in 1923.

As a suite of three dances this work has had a life beyond the little known opera.  Under Max McBride’s baton, the orchestra played with notable clarity, bringing out all the colour and spectacle of this enjoyable work.

Christian Li with Rowan Harvey-Martin conducting

After interval, conductor Rowan Harvey-Martin led the orchestra with “Walk to the Paradise Garden” by Frederick Delius.  Also derived from a now rarely performed opera from 1907, “A Village Romeo and Juliet”, this work was composed as an orchestral interlude to be played between scenes.

In keeping with the opera’s farmland setting and characters, the music has a lyrical, bucolic atmosphere but with unsettling dramatic undercurrents.  It was nicely played by the orchestra.

The final work of the evening was the very well-known “Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor”, composed by Max Bruch in 1868.  Violin soloist, Christian Li, joined the orchestra for the performance of this work which was also conducted by Rowan Harvey-Martin.

Christian Li is 12 years old and has won a number of international music prizes already.  He was the youngest ever joint Junior 1st Prize-winner of the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition in Geneva in 2018.

His playing of the Bruch concerto was simply amazing. He not only played with great technical accuracy but achieved a depth of emotion that was unexpected in someone of his age.  The orchestra accompanied him very well, especially in the rousing third and final movement.

Standing ovations have become rather over-used these days but in this case it was highly deserved, not just because of Li’s age but because of the exceptional skill and maturity he displayed with his playing.

Photos by Peter Hislop

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 8 December 2019

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

How Good Is 2019!

John Shortis and Moya Simpson
How Good Is 2019!  Shortis & Simpson, at Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, December 6 and 8, 2019.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
December 6

Political satire comes in many different guises – all essential to our social wellbeing – from Sydney Theatre Company’s annual mainstage The Wharf Revue (this year’s is reviewed on this blog, November 12), to daily newspaper cartoons across the country, standup comedians popping up anywhere and everywhere, through to perhaps the only small-scale dedicated regional outfit – John Shortis and Moya Simpson – working continually for more than 20 years.

To confirm my credentials (if you are using Windows 10 version 1903 you know what I mean), here’s the record of my first review of Shortis & Simpson [published in The Canberra Times]:

Shortis & Curlies - John Shortis, Moya Simpson, Andrew Bissett at The School of Arts Cafe, 108 Monaro Street, Queanbeyan.  Season: Thursdays to Saturdays till June 29, 1996.
“If you are a Liberal politician confident that cutting government spending is the only way to go; or a Labour politician feeling sorry for yourself after 100 days of the new regime; or a veterinary surgeon operating out of Woden Valley; or someone who thinks that a national gun register is not a good idea; or Princess Diana; or Jeff Kennett; or even a frozen embryo who hopes to inherit your dead father's estate: then you shouldn't see this show because you probably won't laugh.”

This year you can learn to do traditional village [Scott] Morrison Dancing; sing along with Pauline Hanson declaring she will never have anything to do with the NRMA – for our US readers, that’s the National Roads and Motorists Association, not the National Rifle Association; feel the excitement of a school student on an excursion to Parliament House Question Time; learn the essence of democracy from the Dalai Lama who explained the importance of being a mosquito; and, among the other eighteen equally zany songs, perhaps be most stunned – while in fits of uncontrollable laughter – to hear the consequences of Donald Trump’s tweet and meet with the environmentalist Prince of Whales [The Donald’s spelling unadulterated].

I have had the privilege of attending to Shortis & Simpson over all these years (I just accidentally wrote ‘tears’ – of laughter), but now face the horrifying prospect that they may not last forever.  Next year will see the last of The Wharf Revue: Good Night and Good Luck (at the Canberra Theatre Playhouse in September 2020).  The trio of Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott presented their first show (The End of The Wharf As We Know It) in 2000: they’re four years younger than Shortis & Simpson!

So it’s a worry.  We need to laugh politically at least once a year.

Friday, December 6, 2019


A Tender Thing.

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and written and directed by Ali Clinch and Heidi Silberman. Rebus Theatre. Ralph Wilson Theatre. Gorman House. Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres. December 6 – 8 2019. Bookings: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/a-tender-thing-by-rebus-theatre-tickets-83273042913#tickets.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Theatre has many mansions and all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. Rebus Theatre is a mansion where the soul thrives and the spirit soars for those who  journey through a different ability as Simone Georgia Bartram terms what others might regard as her disability. Directors Ali Clinch and Heidi Silberman have turned to Shakespeare for their inspiration to examine the question of whether love is “A Tender Thing”  Two Gods open the debate.Grant McLindon, in Hippie gear, portrays the god who believes that love is tender, true and worthwhile. Joel Swadling, appearing as a Chekovian attired God argues the contrary with cynical pomposity. But is a Flower Power bunch of flowers any match for the more cutting danger of the sword to setlle the conflict of the Gods?
To examine the notion of romantic love, Rebus’s actors present a series of vignettes through their eyes. It is an illuminating and heart-warming expression of universal love, hope and desire. Each vignette references the Bard’s depiction of love as the actors investigate Shakespeare’s definition of  love in Romeo and Juliet as “a tender thing”.  “If Tinder Be The App of Love, Swipe On” introduces Paralympian, Louise Ellery in a Q and A. Funny and self-effacing, Louise parries and thrusts with sharply honed wit and lively humour. She is a sit down comedienne with the unstoppable talent to turn smiles to uproarious laughter. Simone Georgia Brown teaches us that ”mobility limits cannot hold love out” as she dreams of her beautiful Orlando (Joel Swadling) and discovers the flight of the imagination as the expression of love’s power. Peter Corsino and Lucy Raffaele discuss their future wedding in a café, as the ignorant voices of clichéd prejudice comment on the couple. “Forbear to judge for we be sinners all” appears projected behind. It is Raffaele’s delightful, natural  joy and spontaneous humour that dispels all narrow-mindedness. In a pas de deux between dancer Catherine Senior and director, Ali Clinch, the romanticized world of Disney love is contrasted with the passion and despair of classical ballet and Shakespeare’s tragic tale of his star-crosed lovers. “Two houses (Disney and Shakespeare) both alike in Dignity” remind us of Love’s fragile duplicity. And so the company pose their final question, “Is Love a Tender Thing?” Together on stage, the actors espouse the nature of the love that they have presented in this charming and sincere debate. “Love is a dream.” says one. “A miracle” adds another. “Love is beautiful” says a third. “Love is a rat in a cage” jibes Ellery. “Love is blind” McLindon says from behind his dark glasses. And together they conclude in unison. “Love is a tender thing”
Directors and writers Clinch and Silberman lend a gentle and loving touch to the work. It is simple in its honest exploration of the perplexing and uplifting notion of Love’s magic and its mystery. A Tender Thing is not to be judged by the generally accepted standards of professional theatre. Rebus Theatre shows us that “love is not love that alteration finds” in the lives of the cast who create theatre informed by their different circumstance and yet as constant in their need to love and be loved in return. For under an hour I sat with a warm smile, charmed by honesty, moved by different personal experience and stirred to laughter by spontaneous and unaffected wit and humour. Love is tender. Love is true.  And love is the feeling you will have from seeing a Rebus Theatre show.

Waiting in the Wings

Waiting in the Wings by Noël Coward.  Canberra REP and The Q, directed by Stephen Pike.  At The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre November 20–23 2019; at Canberra REP, Naoné Carrel Auditorium, Theatre 3 November 27–December 7 2019.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
December 5

Director – Stephen Pike; Costume Design – Anna Senior; Lighting Design – Nathan Sciberras; Sound Design – Neville Pye; Properties – Brenton Warren

Photo: Foyer Photographs

Set designed by Andrew Kay
“The Wings”
a charitable retirement home for actresses

Director Stephen Pike notes “The [1960] play never had any resounding success for Coward, unlike many of his earlier scripts, however I have found through our rehearsal period the text held many surprises.”

Indeed.  These surprises are the reason for seeing the show.  Among many, the two I would like to mention specifically are Joan White’s performance of Sarita Myrtle, whose dementia is funny, sad and truthful; and Ros Engledow as Lotta Bainbridge, the very opposite.  She is self-aware and consistently rational, and Ros’ performance takes the play to its most telling point in the final scene when her son unexpectedly visits with a plan to take her out of “The Wings”.

Though the London critics of the original production “had neither the wit nor the generosity to pay sufficient tribute to the acting”, according to Coward, I’m guessing that he was expected to be more ‘sparkling’ in his fiftieth play.  I can see that this script doesn’t compare in this sense with, say, Private Lives (reviewed on this blog at Belvoir, Sydney, 2 October 2012).

The first two scenes come over as a bit too ordinary, naturalistic in style, with what sounds like a not very promising ‘sparkling’ plot about a committee that won’t spend money on making the verandah into a ‘solarium’ to capture the weak English sunshine.  No need for ‘mad Englishmen’ going ‘out in the midday sun’ here.

Then, suddenly, after an interval for a retirees’ toilet break and another glass of bubbly, Sarita Myrtle, quoting lines from all sorts of roles she may have had or imagined she had since 1904, out-sparkles the presumed other central dramatic through-line – why will May Davenport (in a strong performance by Liz Bradley) not talk to Lotta Bainbridge?

Sarita goes on to win the dramatic conflict by nearly burning the house down and having to be taken away, imagining she is leaving this ‘hotel’ for another ‘tour’, for a place where the doctor says she will be ‘treated kindly’.

Nowadays, let alone in 1960, the treatment of people with dementia is an issue of great public importance.  And I have to say I wonder with some trepidation about my own future as I approach octagenarian status, remembering my own mother, like Sarita, similarly mis-perceiving the real world for some eight years until her fortunately peaceful death at 92.  The quality of Joan White’s performance allowed me to laugh with Sarita, not at her, and I thank her for that.

The same goes for Ros Engledow. Noël Coward wrote “I wrote Waiting in the Wings with loving care and absolute belief in its characters. I consider that the reconciliation between "Lotta" and "May" in Act Two Scene Three, and the meeting of Lotta and her son in Act Three Scene Two, are two of the best scenes I have ever written. I consider that the play as a whole contains, beneath the froth of some of its lighter moments, the basic truth that old age needn't be nearly so dreary and sad as it is supposed to be, provided you greet it with humour and live it with courage.”

No matter what the critics thought in London in 1960, Ros Engledow and Liz Bradley absolutely got their reconciliation right; and Ros again with Iain Murray was even stronger in that final scene.  Despite what I have to see as a very ‘bitty’ structure of Coward’s script, her Lotta developed subtly, and truthfully, from her justifiably hesitant arrival at “The Wings” to her confident new appreciation of the importance to her of a real family rather than that offered by her son.

Maybe the thought of a woman making such an independent decision was still too much to accept in 1960, even by critics who were well aware of other playwrights, like George Bernard Shaw – whose Mrs Warren’s Profession showed such a woman way back in 1894.  Maybe we were only supposed to laugh at Noël Coward, not to take him seriously as we have, say, Henrik Ibsen’s Nora Helmer in A Doll’s House since 1879.

So, thanks to Stephen Pike, artistic director of The Q and director here for Canberra REP, for this surprise, and all the women (and men) in this production of Waiting in the Wings.  I now have a new appreciation of Noël Coward and hope to continue to greet old age “with humour and live it with courage.”

The Cast:

Residents at “The Wings”:

Bonita Belgrave – Lis de Totth                Cora Clarke – Adele Lewin
Maude Melrose – Penny Hunt                 May Davenport – Liz Bradley
Almina Clare – Micki Beckett                 Estelle Craven – Alice Ferguson
Dierdre O’Malley – Liz St Clair Long    Lotta Bainbridge – Ros Engledow
Sarita Myrtle – Joan White                     Topsy Baskerville – Golda Bergdicks

The Others:

Perry Lascoe – Peter Holland                  Sylvia Archibald – Nikki-Lynne Hunter
Osgood Meeker – Dick Goldberg            Dora – Rina Onorato
Doreen – Rina Onorato                           Zelda Fenwick – Antonia Kitzel
Dr Jevons – Iain Murray                         Alan Bennet – Iain Murray

Thursday, December 5, 2019



Waiting in the Wings by Noël Coward.

Directed by Stephen Pike. Performing at The Q November 20 – 23 2019 and Canberra Rep’s Theatre 3 from November 27 – December 7 2019.  A Canberra Rep production in collaboration with the Q Theatre and the Queanbeyan-Palerang Council. Bookings; 6257 1950.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Liz Bradley as May Davenport in Waiting in the Wings
Sir Noel Coward claimed when asked what he considered to be his gift to the British stage, he replied “A talent to amuse.” The same could be said of Canberra Repertory’s end of year entertainment, Noël Coward’s genteel comedy, Waiting in the Wings, directed by Stephen Pike and featuring a stellar cast of Canberra’s finest more mature actresses. After a short break the Rep season at Theatre 3 was rather slow to warm up on Wednesday night. As Laurence Olivier, the great knight of the British Theatre, once wrote “Never use the performance as a warm up.” Gradually the beautifully played and sensitively directed production swept me up in its charm. Coward’s play, masterly handled by Pike’s excellent cast, does far more than amuse. It is a heart-warming account of the fading years, set in The Wings, a charity home for retired actresses, once the glorious toasts of the London stage and now living out their twilight years with past friends and rivals of the theatrical art.
Liz At Clair Long as Deirdre O’Malley and
Peter Holland as Perry Lascoe in Waiting in the Wings.
Photo by Ross Gould

Written in 1959 and first staged the following year when Coward himself was approaching his more venerable years, Waiting in the Wings forsakes the biting satire of the youthful impetuosity of Private Lives or Blithe Spirit for the more sober observation and empathy for the advancing effects of old age. Coward’s wit still sparkles and strikes a chord with anyone who is experiencing the onset of the twilight years or has elderly relations whose lives have begun to spend their force. The Master still constructs a splendidly crafted plot which affords the actors wonderful opportunities to fashion eccentric, volatile, quirky or forceful characters. And this is where the production excels. Each character is played with perceptive insight into the universal condition of encroaching old age. Coward carefully charts a course of changing circumstances to capture our interest and portray the familiar aging doyennes of his time.

Dick Goldberg as Osgood Meeker, Joan White as

Sarita Myrtle, Liz Bradley as May Davenport and

Alice Ferguson as Estelle Craven in Waiting in the Wings
  Photo by Helen Drum
There is the silent antagonism between rivals, Lotta Bainbridge (Ros Engledow) and May Davenport (Liz Bradley). A struggle with council, embroiling hassled charity home manager, Perry Lascoe (Peter Holland) threatens the establishment of a solarium for the residents. Newspaper columnist Zelda Fenwick (Antonia Kitzel) offers support in exchange for agreement to do an article on the home. Dementia sufferer Sarita Myrtle (Joan White) dangerously indulges her fascination for flaming matches. Lotta’s prodigal son Alan Bennett – not The Alan Bennett – (Ian Murray) appears after seventeen years to create a familiar dilemma. The years have imprinted their various scars and demeanours upon the ladies of The Wings and today’s audiences are faced with a timeless portrait of the human condition. A parade of resilience or capitulation appears. The wiry, no-nonsense Cora (Adele Lewin) sits and knits and sings out of tune and time. Penny Hunt is a flighty, softly spoken musical Maude in striking contrast to the melodramatically bombastic “Irish Battleaxe” Deirdre O’Malley (Liz St Clair Long ). Anxiety attacks bombard the fearful Estelle Craven (Alice Ferguson). The silent conspicuously inconspicuous resident Almina Clare (Micki Beckett) lends a touch of curious interest to the assembled residents  and Liz de Totth is a compliant and affable Bonita Belgrave, the first to greet surprising new arrival Topsy Baskerville (played with a touch of extravagance by Golda Berdicks!)  In a moving portrayal of the cruel yet kind ravages of the failing mind, Joan White elicited spontaneous applause from the audience This is both the measure of success of Pike’s production and also a moving and relevant appreciation of Coward’s more serious intent. There are also finely observed and detailed performances from Nikki Lynne-Hunter as the home’s kindly but stern  “commandant”. Dick Goldberg is a loyal and loving eccentric Osgood Meeker, visiting his bed-ridden and ninety-five year old wife. Rina Onorato successfully captures the pathos in her performance of Lotta’s companion and maid, Dora as well as the excitable charity home maid, Doreen.
Ros Engledow as Lotta Bainbridge and
Liz Bradley as May Davison in Waiting i
The Wings. Photo by Helen Drum

Pike has directed the production with remarkable sensitivity towards the shifting tones of wit, humour and pathos, describing far more than affectionate comedy in his quest for Coward’s true intent. A parade of cameos offers a nostalgic retrospective on the era of vaudeville and the lost art of the early twentieth century’s theatre. The play revolves largely about the character of Lotta, who has the longer duologue scenes with May, Dora and Alan. Could Coward be referencing his close friend and co-star Gertrude Lawrence,long gone when the play was written? Is the play Coward’s private glimpse at his own advancing years through the prism of actresses that have passed through the portals of his theatrical life?

True to its era, Waiting in the Wings runs for over two and half hours with an interval. Meticulously designed by Andrew Kay and constructed by the Rep team under the supervision of Russell Brown, the play is delightfully staged as a traditional Canberra Repertory homage to the Coward canon. With careful attention to period and production values, Pike is ably assisted by costume designer Anna Senior, lighting designer Nathan Sciberras, sound designer Neville Pye and his collection of Coward interval songs and piano pieces, and properties master Brenton Warren. Particularly commendable is the liaison with Queanbeyan’s Q Theatre that has brought this delicious revival of Coward’s seldom seen play to both Queanbeyan and Canberra audiences. And a special commendation to Rep and Stephen Pike for choosing a piece that affords some of Canberra’s finest women to show what special talent still struts the Queanbeyan and Canberra stages! Hopefully it is a collaboration that will continue, enticing the best talents on the two stages to come together to produce the first class Festive Season entertainment  that is Waiting in the Wings.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Baby Doll

Baby Doll, adapted for the stage by Pierre Laville and Emily Mann from the 1956 film by Tennesee Williams and Elia Kazan.  Ensemble Theatre at Kirribilli, Sydney, October 18 – November 16, 2019.

Commentary/Review by Frank McKone

Director – Shaun Rennie; Lighting Designer – Verity Hampson; Set & Costume Designer – Anna Tregloan; Composer & Sound Designer – Nate Edmondson

Baby Doll – Kate Cheel        Aunt Rose Comfort – Maggie Dence
Silva Vacarro – Socratis Otto        Archie Lee Meighan – Jamie Oxenbold

Photos by Prudence Upton

Kate Cheel and Jamie Oxenbold
as Baby Doll and Archie Lee
Set design for Baby Doll
Kate Cheel as Baby Doll

Tennessee Williams called the original stage play of the story of Baby Doll (Flora) being raped by the manager of a syndicate cotton gin (Silva Vicarro) because Flora’s husband  (Jake) had set fire to it and destroyed the competition to Jake’s own gin – a comedy.  This was 27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Scene: The front porch of [Jake’s and Flora’s] cottage near Blue Mountain, Mississippi. 
The porch is narrow and rises into a single narrow gable.
There are spindling white pillars on either side supporting the porch roof and a door of Gothic design and two Gothic windows on either side of it. 
The peaked door has an oval of richly stained glass, azure, crimson, emerald and gold. 
At the windows are fluffy white curtains gathered coquettishly in the middle by baby-blue satin bows. The effect is not unlike a doll’s house.

Jake is a “fat man of sixty”.  Flora is not described, except that she has a “huge bosom”.  Here’s a little excerpt of dialogue:
Jake: Everything you said [about them both being at home when the fire exploded] is awright. But don't you get ideas.
Flora: Ideas?
Jake: A woman like you's not made to have ideas. Made to be hugged an' squeezed!
Flora ( babyishly ): Mmmm. . . .

Satirical comedy?  But there is no doubt about the rape:

Flora: Don't follow. Please don't follow! ( She sways uncertainly.
He presses his hand against her. She moves inside. He follows. 
The door is shut quietly. The gin pumps slowly and steadily across the road.
From inside the house there is a wild and despairing cry. A door is slammed . 
The cry is repeated more faintly.)

In the next scene: After a moment the screen door is pushed slowly open and Flora
emerges gradually. Her appearance is ravaged. Her eyes have a vacant limpidity in the moonlight, her lips are slightly apart.  She moves with her hands stretched gropingly before her till she has reached a pillar of the porch . There she stops and stands moaning a little. Her hair hangs loose and disordered. The upper part of her body is unclothed except for, a torn pink band about her breasts. Dark streaks are visible on the bare shoulders and arms and there is a large discoloration along one cheek. A dark trickle, now congealed, descends from one corner of her mouth. These more apparent tokens she covers with one hand when Jake comes up on the porch. He is now near approaching, singing to himself.

It seems to me La Commedia e Finita.

In the 1956 movie, the emphasis is on Carroll Baker being made a star by Elia Kazan, (as he had done for Marlon Brando in Street Car Named Desire).  Two elements of the movie were different from the original play, which I think ultimately altered the effect of this further adaptation back to the stage.

First is a minor point.  The story of Aunt Rose in the movie was no more than a bit of human interest on the sidelines of the central story of industrial arson and rape as revenge.  In an earlier play than 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, called The Long Stay Cut Short, or The Unsatisfactory Supper, Archie Lee (aka Jake) reminds his wife, Baby Doll, that Aunt Rose has overstayed her welcome in their home.  Under pressure to go, when a tornado rages, Aunt Rose will not go inside, and is carried away in a mighty gust of wind. 

In this stage adaptation, the role becomes more a distraction than a light relief.  The director, Shaun Rennie, may have seen Aunt Rose in a Greek chorus role as commentator or reflector on the action, I guess, but her entrances and exits are intrusive rather than illuminating.  That’s no reflection on Maggie Dence’s performance, of course, but a weakness in the scriptwriting.

The second development in the movie, though, is much more significant.  The characterisation of Baby Doll – I think for the titillation of blockbuster movie audiences – became a conflicting mix of childish naivety with knowing seductiveness.  If she had sex with Silva Cavarro in the child’s crib (all that’s available for him to sleep in), under his manipulative pressure, though it might still have been rape, it was nothing like the violence of the original story.  In fact, on stage, with the crib entirely off-stage (while in the movie we see the scene where she settles Cavarro in to sleep), we are even less certain that a rape actually took place.

Yet, as in the movie, we did see on stage a Baby Doll, in Kate Cheel’s excellent characterisation, who takes on her husband against his attitude in:
Flora: Ideas?
Jake: A woman like you's not made to have ideas.

The tension arising from the other new element in the movie – the agreement with Baby Doll’s father that Archie Lee would have to wait until she turned 20 to consummate the marriage – certainly raised the emotional state on film (especially with the extended reference to tomorrow being the day) and made its point on stage.

In the end, though, I suspect that to have played the original 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, because of its apparent comedy turning into tragic violence, would have made the main point of Tennessee Williams’ work more telling than either the film or its re-adaptation to stage.  Not only did it reveal bluntly the men’s attitudes to women as victims of sexual predation; it also more simply and clearly exposed the worst aspects of capitalist competition.

To this extent, the stage adaptation was better than the film:  Because on stage the setting and acting cannot appear to be ordinary naturalism, a degree of distance is established for the theme to take its place: that the exposé of red-neck Mississippi shows, as Karl Marx explained, how the economics of competition has consquences in human social behaviour. 

Tennessee Williams understood this, as we see in his other work on stage, especially in The Glass Menagerie (1944) where he used written signs above the stage for each scene to gain a similar effect to the alienation-effect (Verfremdungseffekt) used by Bertolt Brecht.

In conclusion, I saw the Ensemble Theatre production of Baby Doll as an interesting exercise, performed and designed very well; and I quote in the spirit of conversation the Director’s Note by Shaun Rennie.  “It feels like a dangerous conversation to be having in 2019 and I have questioned my own privilege as a white, male storyteller in this process.  I have faced the conundrum of not wanting to speak on behalf of anyone yet at the same time wish to engage in the conversation.  I hope that this production inspires further interrogation of a system that Williams and Kazan were clearly lampooning back in 1956, but which is still unfortunately pervasive today.”

Kate Cheels and Socratis Otto
as Baby Doll and Silva Vacarro
Socratis Otto and Maggie Dence
as Silva Vacarro and Aunt Rose Comfort
in Ensemble Theatre's production
of Baby Doll by Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan
adapted from the film by
Pierre Laville and Emily Mann