THEATRE

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Camino Real is at the RSC, Stratford (01789 295623) In preview, opens 26 Feb

Quentin Tarantino Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand... film directors have names and identities and public images. The same can hardly be said of theatre directors, with the possible exceptions of Peter Hall, Richard Eyre and Trevor Nunn.

But now a new generation is waiting in the wings. First up is Nicholas Hytner, who need never work again, thanks to his healthy percentage from Miss Saigon. He recently returned to theatre with a beautifully crafted production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan (a play amounting to considerably less than the sum of considerable parts), and has made the move to cinema with The Madness of George III and his latest, The Crucible (opening on Thursday).

Like Hytner, Steven Pimlott started off in opera and has ended up doing very nicely thank you out of musical theatre. His revamp of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (with its splendid Mark Thompson designs) may not have made him famous but it did cushion the finances enough to allow him to spend time as company director at the RSC, for whom he is directing Camino Real.

If you haven't heard of this play, you're not alone. It's not exactly the most famous Tennessee Williams work. "It's a great ensemble play," says Pimlott. He ain't kidding. There are 18 named characters - including Don Quixote, Marguerite Gautier and Byron, plus crowd scenes - which rules out the commercial sector. You need a subsidised company to do it and although the RSC's American activities have been sporadic - Kaufman & Hart comedies, Edward Albee's All Over with Peggy Ashcroft and Angela Lansbury and an ongoing relationship with dramatist Richard Nelson - Pimlott believes the RSC is the right company. "The quality of Williams's language is so important. He's one of the 20th century's great lyric writers." He points to the fact that we associate Tennessee Williams with the Method, but while that is important, too much internal searching may unbalance the plays. "The plays don't exist in the pauses, they are to be acted on the line. There's an intense lyricism in the poetry and like Shakespeare, you start with the verse."

Pimlott also acknowledges Williams's stylistic range. "He was a very eclectic writer embracing all forms, from musical comedy to his own heightened naturalism." The one thing he's certain about is the need to abandon English reserve. "You do have to risk things and throw caution to the winds. He needs a bit of vulgarity."

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