The increased cost of bringing a play to the Fringe has undoubtedly led to an increase in the number of one person shows that have been on the line-up this year and last. It’s a difficult format and for each show that stands out, there are probably a dozen more that can feel more like stand-ups without jokes or storylines.
Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams, written and performed by Jacob Storms, avoids this fate by looking at Tennessee Williams’ early years and writing career and bringing it to vivid life.
Set shortly after Williams’ breakthrough play The Glass Menagerie has completed its first successful run, Williams takes the story back to his relocation to New Orleans away from the oppressive nature of his home life in St Louis. The journey began with the discovery of the work of DH Lawrence, a liberating force that provided an escape from his mothers puritanism as well as hefty fines from the library for all the books he was never able to return.
His sister Rose was not so fortunate as her rebellion achieved through seeking out the company of men, leads to her being sent away from home only to subsequently return and ultimately become a shadow of her former self. The impact this had on Williams writing and perhaps his most famous creation, Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is touched on in the play alongside the origins of Stanley Kowalski, the other central character in the play immortalised on screen by Marlon Brando.
A knowledge of Tennessee Williams work isn’t necessary to appreciate the quality of writing or acting on display here, and the mark of Alan Cummings, the director of the play when it was first performed can still be seen in the production.
Storm tells a riveting story of Williams journey from New Orleans through to Taos, Los Angeles and New York. As a restless wanderer, he searches for company and the kindness of strangers but never seems to find it, and whenever he does come close, his own fears and blue demons seem to lead him away from a happiness that he seems to question his right to.
This is a strong monologue that recalls an era as well as a playwright, and delivers a great reminder of the power of storytelling.
Assembly Rooms to 27 August