First performance of the play that was too hot to handle
FIRST NIGHT Not About Nightingales National Theatre, London
Friday 06 March 1998
The late author of such emotionally charged classics as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, who died in 1983, is thought to have written the piece when he was 26, six years before making his name with The Glass Menagerie.
Not About Nightingales was never produced, and does not appear in any of the author's collected works. It was brought to light by Vanessa Redgrave, who read a reference to it in a biography, persuaded the Williams estate to release the manuscript and then approached National Theatre artistic director Trevor Nunn to stage it in a co-production with her own company.
Nunn's staging opened last night in the National's small studio theatre, the Cottesloe.
Set in a men's prison, the play partly concerns homosexual relationships - the probable reason why American publishers and theatre managements were wary.
Trevor Nunn, who directed last night's world premiere, said he had found the work "harrowing." It has, he said, "elements of the style which you would associate with Tennessee Williams, but is not really like a Tennessee Williams play. It is about a young prisoner who has a poetic sense of himself and what he wants to achieve".
The play, which emerges as an impassioned plea for justice and humanity, was sparked off by a newspaper report of a prison riot in the Thirties in which four convicts were brutally murdered.
Nunn has recruited an Anglo-American cast in which Irish actor Finbar Lynch stars as the hero, Canary Jim, opposite American Sherri Parker Lee and Corin Redgrave, Vanessa's brother, as the prison warden.
Vanessa Redgrave came across a reference to the play in a new biography about the young Tennessee Williams. She became intrigued and went to New York to urge Williams's long time friend, Maria St Juste, who managed his estate, to release the manuscript.
Maria St Juste, who has since died, had never released the play because she felt that if Williams had not released it in his lifetime he must have had his reasons.
However, Ms Redgrave and she had been friends for some time and she agreed to release it to her. The annotated typescript was found among the late playwright's papers, and Ms Redgrave secured the rights for its performance.
The one misfortune for her was that the main female part is a 19-year- old secretary, which she is too old to play. The one middle-aged woman in the play appears only for a brief scene. Nevertheless, she was keen to play that role, until Trevor Nunn told her it would be inappropriate for her to take such a small role.
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
The City of the Monkey God: Archaeologists claim to have found city lost for 1,000 years in remote Honduran jungle
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Bubonic plague-carrying fleas found on New York City rats
London property boom built on dirty money
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...
£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...