THEATRE: Tiger Tail; The Drum, Plymouth

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The Independent Culture
'If it's a good idea in the first place, it's likely to be a good idea in the second place," so said the French playwright Robert Pinget. Not so with Tiger Tail, a reworking of the Baby Doll film script, itself an amalgamation of four one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to begin with.

The preposterous plot of this creaking, comic erotic thriller has a 19- year-old wife married to an older man who has sworn not to consummate his marriage until his wife reaches the age of 20. As the play opens with only hours to go before his wife's 20th birthday, there is a blatant dramatic screw that does not need a lot of tightening. Furthermore, the local priest has proclaimed that the wife, Baby Doll, "is waiting for something to happen". No wonder, when the wife is wandering around in a close-fitting nightdress, practically screaming out loud to be deflowered - although not by her middle-aged husband.

Thus the plot is well set up for the arrival of Silva, a handsome young Sicilian from a rival cotton plantation that is putting the squeeze on Baby Doll's husband - to an extent that the husband has set fire to his rival's shed and is anxious for Baby Doll to supply an alibi for arson.

In these hot nights in Mississippi practically anything can happen. The brutish husband orders the homeless and homely named Aunt Rose Comfort out of the house at the prospect of having to go to work on the virgin looms. He need not have bothered, as Silva, the spiky Sicilian, has relieved him of the task - as we all knew he would. In the end, the husband is arrested while the two lovers hide up a tree.

Plymouth Theatre Royal's production of Tiger Tail is the first time that the play has been seen outside America, which is not too surprising. It is also the first directing job for actor Hugh Fraser, who could have found a steadier play for his debut. Siri O'Neal plays the anxious bride, virtually humming with unrequited lust, while Ian Redford, as the husband, is like a cat on a hot tin roof. Paul Herzberg, the Sicilian lover, arrives in the nick of time, and Lucinda Curtis plays the squeaky pathetic aunt. Doreen Ingleton puts in a brief appearance as a representative of the black majority. She sings a blues number, which, although pleasant enough, is entirely incongruous. Tennessee Williams is not noted for subtlety, but Tiger Tail is crude and melodramatic, bordering on the risible.

To 22 March. Booking: 01752 222200

Allen Sadler