Broads and beefcake in the heat: Sweet Bird of Youth

Florida may be hot and steamy with characters who are restless with pent up sexual tension, but the audience watching Sweet Bird of Youth will more likely be restless due to boredom. The play is a repetitive three hour piece covering lost youth, unfinished business, broken dreams and the lure of stardom over and over and over again... It's a shame really, as the publicity shots alone are fantastic and make this look like it is the sexiest show on in town at the moment rather than the longest.

The play is about Chance Williams, a bit of a drifter but also a looker with a fine set of pecs. He is played by Seth Numrich here and judging by the number of young women in the audience he is already attracting a solid fan base, which is no doubt will grow after they see him parade around the stage in his boxer briefs.


Anyway, Chance has returned to his small town in Florida, with fading movie star Alexandra Del Lago in tow (Kim Cattrall). With her drunken demeanour and penchant for herbal cigarettes, Chance is hoping to blackmail her to get back a part in a film. But she has fled the opening of her latest film after believing it is going to kill her career and not really in the mood for that sort of thing.

Things get further complicated when it becomes clear that Chance was run out of town originally after getting the daughter of a corrupt and influential businessman / politician pregnant. He was told he would be castrated if he ever returned, but bizarrely that is not going to deter him.

It feels like two plays in one, which in essence it was before Williams decided to fuse them together and part of the problem with the piece. At one point I was ready to get up only to realise there was another hour of the first half to go. The scenes with Cattrall and Numrich in the hotel room are fiery and exciting and the two spar well together. But the corrupt politician and his barren daughter are a back story that doesn't add much to the piece. The audience can work out what has happened already.

Much has already been said of Cattrall's red comedy wig, which seems to have a life of its own. It is a pity that a creative decision wasn't made to keep her looking as smouldering as the publicity material as it does become a distraction as it morphs into various hairy forms. Notwithstanding this,  the performances from the cast are hard to fault and while Cattrall and Numrich are on stage things are lively and interesting... So are the observations on lost youth and the passing of time... Unfortunately that is only half of the show...

Maybe it should be intentionally funnier. It certainly is a dark evening... And I'm not just referring to it being underlit... Sweet Bird of Youth runs at the Old Vic until 31 August. Catch it for the performances, but be warned you may find yourself fuming at three hours of your own lost youth you are not going to get back...

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