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The Melbourne Review on Vieux Carré

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Tennessee Williams is best known for a string of classic plays, such as Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie that form part of a golden thread of twentieth century American drama.

Yet it is a lesser known work of Williams’, Vieux Carré, begun in the 1930s and not completed for more than 40 years, that will feature on the Melbourne stage from next week.

Opening on January 17, ITCH productions presents the Australian premiere of Vieux Carré – an exploration of interlinking themes, as always with Williams, of sex, art, creativity, anguish and social constraints that limit that very exploration.

Forming part of Midsumma 2013, the performance opens the year for fortyfivedownstairs with a humorous and very personal work, a ‘memory play’ that follows the period of artistic, social and sexual discovery of the young American.

Behind the iron lacework and facades of the Vieux Carré, an apparently innocent writer witnesses the lives of the other tenants of a New Orleans rooming house and their longings, depravities and hunger for human connection – Vieux Carré is about a young man who discovers that being a voyeur does not exempt him from the immediacy and pain of desire.

Under director Alice Bishop, this production of Vieux Carré draws on the rich musical traditions of New Orleans jazz and blues to evoke the sultry landscape of the French Quarter. “New Orleans has a rhythm all its own – when you give yourself over to that rhythm anything is possible,” says Bishop, who travelled to New Orleans to conduct research for this production.

Vieux Carré by Tennessee Williams shows at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, from January 17 to February 3.

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