(Alexandra Spring’s article appeared in Guardian, 2/16.)
Sydney theatre-makers have been fascinated by live video of late. There was Eamon Flack’s take on The Glass Menagerie for Belvoir in 2014, and Benedict Andrews’ The Maids at Sydney Theatre Company in 2013. In fact, on-stage cameras are one of Andrews’ favoured techniques – he used them in Belvoir’s Measure for Measure in 2010 and STC’s The Season at Sarsaparilla in 2007.
Some productions have employed them masterfully, in some they are an irritating distraction. But director Kip Williams has used them to great effect in STC’s new production of Suddenly Last Summer.
It helps that there’s a reference point. Tennessee Williams’s 1958 one-act play was famously adapted into a 1959 film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift, and this STC production draws on camera techniques such as intense close-ups, zooming and tracking. But the director skillfully contrasts the live cameras with compelling onstage action to lend the production a voyeuristic and eerie, dreamlike quality.
Suddenly Last Summer tells of the deeply traumatised Catherine, who under instruction by her wealthy aunt Mrs Venable, is to be assessed as a candidate for lobotomy by Doctor Cukrowicz. Catherine witnessed the death of her poet cousin Sebastian in the Spanish town of Cabeza de Lobo and, despite her family’s demands, will not be quiet about the controversial circumstances.