Reverend T Lawrence Shannon has his demons. They turn up every now and then and send him into a spiral. On the surface he isn’t a very nice man. He has a lot of faults but, deep down, masked by his demons, he is a decent man, a man with a conscience, a caring man. But he is like a sleeping volcano, slowly heating up until it’s time to explode.
Shannon is the central character in The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams. He is presently working as a tour guide, taking a bus load of Baptist ladies on a sight seeing tour of Mexico. But the lava is rising and he has had enough. He leaves them to melt in the bus and heads up to the verandah of the Costa Verda Hotel run by his friend Fred and Fred’s wife Maxine. But Fred is dead.
Tonight we went into London, to the Noel Coward Theatre, to see Clive Owen as Shannon.
The main reason we booked was because it was Clive Owen. I always see Tennessee Williams as a bit daunting, to say the least. His plays take one through the wringer a number of times. However, Iguana is different.
I’d never seen it (either on stage or celluloid) or read about it so it was a complete surprise. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Okay, the play is still quite emotionally draining but, somehow, it is tempered beautifully with touches of humour and, not least of all, by the utter charm and charisma of Clive Owen. Seriously. He is extraordinary.
There’s plenty not to like about Shannon but you feel for him in the hands of Mr Owen. He is an amazing talent. For me, this is one of the best male performances we’ve seen this year.
As superb as Clive was Lia Williams as Hannah Jelkes. We saw her in Mary Stuart and she was magnetic in that. She was just as powerful as Hannah. It’s difficult to see anything else when she’s on stage. She glows. The scenes between Shannon and Hannah were perfection and why we go to live theatre.
The rest of the cast was excellent, including Anna Gunn as Maxine (Anna was Skyler in Breaking Bad and completely unrecognisable), the poor desperate widow looking for some sort of companionship: a Fred replacement.
I absolutely loved the Germans. What a stroke of pure genius by Williams. Having this strange family group (played expertly by the utterly convincing Alasdair Baker, Timothy Blore, Karin Coulson and Penelope Woodman) always wearing swimmers and listening to the radio as the Luftwaffe bomb London, rejoicing in the death and destruction is brilliantly funny. This strange family helps lighten the play, something lacking from a lot of Tennessee Williams. They were very refreshing.
Speaking of refreshing…the thunderstorm that finished the first half was ‘fantastic’, to quote Shannon. The torrential rain was so amazing that half the auditorium came down at interval just to inspect the wet stage and wonder at the theatrical magic. I was amazed that the front row wasn’t drenched.
The only thing I didn’t like was the use of microphones. On the West End one expects to see our greatest actors. They should not need microphones, particularly in such an intimate space as the Noel Coward.