The milk train doesn’t stop here anymore, 3 Stars

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
Charing Cross Theatre
26th Sept – 22nd Oct 2022

“Tennessee Williams’ rarely performed ‘The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore’, an extraordinary play set on an exclusive mountaintop villa off the Amalfi coast, premiered in Spoleto, Italy in 1962.
This production will be directed by Robert Chevara, a leading authority on Tennessee Williams’ work, who has directed several acclaimed stage productions.
Super rich, terminally ill, four-time widow Flora ‘Sissy’ Goforth sits in isolated splendour dictating her memoirs to the lovely but put-upon Blackie, her recently widowed young secretary. Then one day Christopher Flanders, a former poet, aging pretty boy, and professional house guest, climbs her
mountain looking for an invitation to stay…”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

The Charing Cross Theatre has reverted back to a transverse configuration – this is always tricky for the cast and Director to block for an audience who are essentially side-on to the action and this production suffers as a consequence.

The Set is static and always visible with the performance space split into quadrants. First is the rectangular terrace which has 3 acrylic clear chairs, more kitsch than comfort and a surprising choice for our leading lady, Flora Goforth (played by Linda Marlowe) when she clearly likes to exude an opulent ambiance. Certainly doesn’t feel like we’re in the Italian Amalfi Coast. Alongside is a drinks trolley from which martinis are poured from what looks to be water in a water jug. The next section of performance space is a raised catwalk runway which is occasionally used to walk out onto the rocks – although mainly appears to be unused and a bit of a clumsy white elephant. The third section is the pink villa which isn’t particularly pink but is represented by a chaise lounge. The final section of the performance space is the bedroom where our leading lady eventually dies, represented by a double bed of simple design, without any particular statement of design. With most of the dialogue taking place on the terrace there is a lot of empty and mainly unused stage space.

The props didn’t fare much better – the food trays prepared and delivered looked very much like plastic ornaments.

The Sound design was noticeable by its absence. The lighting would appear to be fairly standard design with little variation, not a bad thing, but equally nothing exciting that felt mediterranean. The costumes for Flora and the “Witch of Capri” were fabulous! Guilio (played by Matteo Johnson) didn’t fare so well – dressed in a white shirt and camp peach shorts with white ankle socks and sandals – was scandalous and confusing. Was he supposed to be gay with bad taste? What was going on here? Guilio later slept with the “Witch of Capri” – perhaps his dress sense was symbolic of having bad taste in every avenue of his life?

When you go to see a Tennessee Williams play you can expect it to be long and drawn out. Telling a writer to cut down is always difficult and I guess you’ll not get the licensing rights if your intention is to cut the play down to a pacier size. The problem with this play is that the story is rather thin with no hidden surprises.

The saving grace here is that the cast are absolutely terrific! Linda Marlowe is a queen of her craft and I could watch Sara Kestelman in any play as she’s so charismatically delightful! Sara’s performance is top notch and worth going to see! Sanee Raval embodies the sexy handsome man who woes older ladies in their twilight years and Matteo Johnson is the sort of handsome young man any older woman would adore to have at their beck and call. Lucie Shorthouse played the chain smoking Editor “Blackie” and completing the line-up is Joe Ferrero as the rugged security man. Casting by Ellie Collyer-Bristow could not have been bettered.

Go see the production to enjoy the craft of this terrific cast!

Photo credit: Nick Haeffner

Further Info:

Creative team: Director Robert Chevara
Production Designer Nicolai Hart-Hansen
Lighting Designer Adam King
Casting Ellie Collyer-Bristow
Produced by Steven M. Levy for Charing Cross Theatre Productions Limited

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
By Tennessee Williams

Charing Cross Theatre
The Arches
Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NL
Box office: 08444 930650
26 September – 23 October, 2022

Tickets: from £17.50
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