For ten years, Tennessee Williams poured his soul into The Two-Character Play. It was the longest he ever spent working on one play and it would prove to be his most overtly personal expression. The Two-Character Play is the story of a hopeless brother and sister - she riddled with substance abuse and delusions, he with despair – a dark fantasy of Williams’ relationship with his sister Rose, who was probably schizophrenic and was lobotomized against his wishes.
Director Kirk injects the play with some much-needed structure and deftly brings out the play’s latent comedy. The result is a magnificent revival that confirms the Jermyn Street Theatre’s position as one of the most exciting spaces in London. William’s abstract musings remain as frustrating as ever at times, but the cast counter them with breathtaking moments, which defy anyone to stand aloof from the full tragedy of human disappointment. At the centre of this is Catherine Cusack’s frighteningly nuanced performance as Clare. In control of every twitching muscle, Cusack allows occasional flashes of acute intelligence to break out from Claire’s cloud of self-medication – an intelligence that makes her both dangerous and captivating. Her relationship with Paul McEwan’s Felice is intriguing and feels richly rehearsed. Despite McEwan’s best efforts his performance is hamstrung by the difficult text of his opening soliloquy, a mediation on human torment that represents Tennessee Williams at his most self-indulgent. But from the moment his co-star arrives on stage, the pair go from strength to strength, elucidating a difficult play and making it look easy. At 90 minutes, a gem of a production, and in Cusack, a magnificent performance from a criminally undervalued actress.