On Christmas Eve, a couple whose unconsummated marriage is one day old fetch up at the home of the man's army buddy, whose wife has just left him. After a lot of talk, and not a little shouting, the reconciled couples face a happy Christmas. The plot is domestic sitcom, but the playwright is Tennessee Williams, so this 1960 comedy is infused with poetry and longing. The frustrated husband, every girl's dream ("afflicted and handsome"), is so terrified of impotence he becomes violent; his friend uses drink ("Problems need obfuscation every now and then") to blur sexual apathy. What seems at first a window into a naive, bygone world turns into a view of perennial problems before they were themselves obfuscated by fashion and politics. The acting and accents of Benedict Cumberbatch and Lisa Dillon (looking like a fragile Marilyn Monroe) as the newlyweds, Jared Harris and Sandy
McDade as their unhappy hosts, are superb. Following the older man's advice to the groom, director Howard Davies has been loving and gentle with the play. Williams, bless his heart, has been gentle with us all.
To 29 April, 020 7359 4404Reuse content