‘Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.’
It may be a quote from another of Tennessee Williams’ plays but it perfectly describes the essence of his later work, Sweet Bird of Youth – currently play at the Old Vic Theatre until the end of August.
The caged birds who accept each other in this tale are: Kim Cattrall’s Alexandra Del Lago – an ageing film star travelling ‘incognito’ as Princess Kosmonopolis, after running away from a seemingly awful premiere for her last movie and Seth Numerich’s Chance Wayne – gigolo and wannabe film-star who finds himself back in his hometown of St. Cloud and desperate to see his girl, Heavenly, again.
It’s a story about losing and using youth to your advantage, battling and succumbing to desires, facing your own and other people’s monsters and of course, a good dose of lies and cover-ups.
Much of the production’s strength comes from the opening scene where Del Lago is awoken by Chance. It’s here that Cattrall really shines and is able to display a range of emotions that show Del Lago as a wise, older woman who understands the time limit forced upon ageing actresses in the movie industry. She bites back with an acid wit and enough sex appeal to convincingly seduce Chance, using him to try and forget what it is she has taken flight from.
Seth Numerich does an equally good job but with Chance’s intentions being to blackmail Del Lago for her money and power, along with the character’s arrogance, disregard for his actions and public humiliation of the film star – Chance becomes much harder to sympathise with.
The set design is wonderful with the stage transforming from a hotel room to a plantation-style white building with ease. As is the clever use of lighting – which takes on much of the play’s symbolism, shining brightly to make Del Lago hide from it and dimming to a glow when Heavenly appears.
Altogether, it’s a strong production with a fantastic cast that makes for an interesting evening (or afternoon) at a great theatre.