A Cavalier for Milady, Cock Tavern, London

3.00

The new Cock's old cock Tennessee Williams season has comprised two short world premieres: one early, and now one late; A Cavalier for Milady, thought to have been written around 1979, is the only published Williams play remaining hitherto unperformed, a real collector's item, and infinitely worth seeing.

It's no masterpiece, but Gene David Kirk's production scores in its concentration of familiar Williams themes and the unexpected resurrection of Nijinsky as a fantasy figure in the life of a damaged young girl whose mother goes out on the town with young men she hires from an escort agency.

There's something both startling and unsettling here, as if Williams really didn't care what he wrote any more: the young girl is clearly masturbating under her nursery clothes as she stares at the naked statue, and her mother shares memories with her friend not only of recent tussles with well-endowed gigolos in the forsythia bushes, but of a sex show in Havana with barking dogs.

The dark humour comes in the carefully phrased language in which such things are described, a stylistic trick of which Williams is a past master; even his most sordidly suggestive sentences are beautifully spun and weighted.

This theatrical pleasure is slightly undermined by the decision to play the mother, and her friend, as a pair of tawdry drag queens: Janet Prince is a chaotic Lily Savage as the unnamed mother, with scrawny white hair and brawny, bronzed arms; while Lucinda Curtis as her meeker friend is given to so many face-pulls and bulging oeillades you fear she might go snap or pop at any minute.

Mother is assured that their hired young men have good references. "I hope that's not all they've got," is the less than chaste reply, not the only innuendo-laden line, and the prompt, no doubt, for this camp, broad brush approach.

They are more like a pair of Ugly Sisters, in fact, which certainly highlights the stay-at-home quandary of the woman child, Nance, whom Caitlin Thorburn plays with unaffected charm and simplicity while dreaming of her own salacious Prince Charming. Nance has been cruelly suppressed and might well be on her way to a mental home.

To 23 April (020 7478 0165)

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