Chichester Festival Theatre’s previous Artistic Director Johnathan Kent returns to direct the Tennessee Williams play. It certainly wasn’t as amazing as his previous productions but it was a good production to return to.
I found that “Sweet Bird of Youth” was a play of two halves quite literally. This can be viewed in many aspects. I personally found that the play itself had very little going on in the first act which began to drag. This was especially clear in the first scene set in a bedroom between the two main characters; an actress (Alexandro del Lago played by Marcia Gay Harden) who has arguably run from her previous fame and a young man (Chance played by Brian J Smith) who was using the actress to try to break into fame himself. I understand that it was important to introduce the characters in this first act written by Tennessee Williams although I also believe that this was dawned on for far too long. I found it very hard to find connections with the characters on stage during the first act which I do not believe was down to the acting.
The second act had much more substance. Although mainly set in one setting similar to the first act we saw much more action between the characters that had been introduced. In the second act we the characters who all have their own selfish goals. We are introduced to the person that Chance was once when he was younger and lived in the town of St Cloud that the play is set in. It is made clear that Chance has ended up far from his younger self who he has left behind him.
Brian J Smith and Marcia Gay Harden work together brilliantly to inject life into the script which had the opportunity to lie lifeless on the stage. The emotion put behind the character of Chance when he begins to dawn on the fact that he has already lost the battle of time and how he has past the stage of his life know as youth. This is particularly poignant when the actor directly addresses the audience asking not for pity or understanding but the recognition that aspects of his character are present in all of us. Marcia Gay Harden plays the character of the Princess in a dominant style but is not shown to be particularly evil but successfully controls the stage which elegance. She develops the character throughout the play into a woman who is depicted as being egotistical.
It wasn’t the best play that I have seen in recent times at Chichester Festival Theatre although it certainly isn’t the worst. I wouldn’t be rushing back to see it again even though it was somewhat enjoyable.