Your Fringe guide might describe Double Bill differently than it actually is. Mine certainly does. The fact is that Tennessee Williams’ Something Unspoken is joined, not by Edward Albee as listed, but by Chekhov’s Smoking is Bad For You. Luckily, this latter play is actually quite good. The Russian playwright’s one-man confession of a beleaguered husband is as innovative as anything regularly seen in second-tier sitcoms, but his writing does continue to entertain. The writing is funny and sad all at the same time, as the poor lecturer gets increasing sidetracked from his intended topic by a deeply repressed desire to complain.

Alan Ireby’s performance is what really brings it to life.

Alan Ireby’s performance is what really brings it to life. He absolutely looks the part, sunken and beaten in decidedly outdated fashion, and he twitches and jerks his body in an absolutely believable expression of chronic nerves. His voice twitches in much the same way, shooting up to accent his most nervous moment. Even his moments of revolt are but twitches to be quickly beaten down.

In comparison, Something Unspoken is tense and muted. The story of a widowed socialite and her English secretary struggling with the knowledge of their latent sexual tension couldn’t be more different from the first half of the show. But it, too, is a treat. The writing is brilliantly true, typical of Williams, and multi-faceted, complicated by a subplot involving the socialite running in absentia to leadership of a social club, which runs in parallel to the romantic scene. This makes every phone call a critical decision, with two lives hanging on each ring.

Kirsten Maguire handles the widow Cornelia with scene-stealing aplomb. Her distinguished air, false kindness and authoritarian steel blend into a perfect representation of an entire class, which makes the hints of her unorthodox (for the time) sexuality even more interesting. I just wish her wig looked more real. Suzanne Dance (the secretary), though a competent actress, seems like a shadow in the light of her mistress. Her moments of real emotional intensity barely drew my eyes from Maguire.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

Double Bill is Something Unspoken - a rare opportunity to experience Tennessee Williams' mastery. An incisive, humourous study of two ageing Southern womenfolk. Genius! This unpaid and unfunded production is directed by the celebrated Keith Hutcheon. ‘The story of a widowed socialite and her English secretary struggling with the knowledge of their latent sexual tension … is a treat. The writing is brilliantly true, typical of Williams, and multi-faceted’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘...the production has to rely on the strength of the performances to engage the audience, and this is the area in which it succeeds’ **** (AllEdinburghTheatre.com).

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