Flotsam, Jetsam And Then Some

SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS at the Hampstead Theatre Club, Swiss Cottage.

Together with Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams must surely rate as one of the greatest contemporary American playwrights. Since the mid 40’s when his ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ burst upon the London stage, he has given us a wealth of compelling, soul-searching plays. Many of these have transferred successfully to the screen, and in most he has written particularly strong roles for the female leads. One publicity report in recent years claims that he wrote most of his leading roles with Anna Magnani and Marlon Brando in mind. The last play of his to appear in the West End several years ago was ‘Period Of Adjustment’. This was not a particularly successful venture, and since then, though he has had new plays produced on or off Broadway, none have reached our shores ’til now.

In SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS he makes a welcome return to the London theatre, explosive moments, but watch her in the setting his characters in a sleazy waterfront bar on the Californian coast. O’Neill used this setting to good effect in one of my favourite plays ‘The Iceman Cometh’, and William Saroyan also found himself a winner by using a barroom for his play ‘The Time Of Your Life’. Both these authors used a wide range of characters, and there were a good many well written cameo scenes involving two or more characters at a time. Unfortunately Williams only gives us 9 characters, and has not allowed much interplay between them.

The losers and boozers of life that use this bar are familiar to us from previous Williams plays, but once again he enlivens the proceedings by having them philosophise about their lives. His observance of human frailty and loneliness are once again pinpointed right on target.

The proceedings are dominated by Elaine Stritch, playing Leona, a middle-aged beautician who has reached the end of a 6 month affair with a worthless ageing stud. She is celebrating the anniversary of the death of her brother when the play commences, and makes her entrance flinging a deluge of abuse at her lover. Vivian Matelon’s direction of the play has allowed her to overstate in her quiet moments of the play as she observes the people around her. Particularly moving is the scene where she questions and talks to two homosexuals. Her expressive face as she listens to them is a story in itself. She has been to hell and back, and one can identify with her resilience towards the hardships of life.

The other inhabitants of the bar include an alcoholic doctor who has been barred from the profession but continues to perform the occasional operation, played by George Pravda, and a homosexual hack screen writer perceptively portrayed by Tony Beckley who delivers one of the author’s most telling speeches. Edward Judd as the insensitive stud gives another of his fine performances.

Perhaps the most typical of all Williams’ creations is the character of the half-wit derelict girl, who is ready to accept the first offer given to her. She is played to perfection by Frances de la Tour.

FOOTNOTE: Since this review was written we have heard that the production is to open at the Comedy Theatre, Panton Street, London W1, on March 13.

Formula For A Play

DEAD EASYRecently playing at Richmond Theatre, Richmond.

Take one well known stage, film and TV personality – in this case Irene Handl – and cast her in the role of a friendly cockney charlady. Set the action in the offices of a London business firm, and have a murder committed within the opening moments of the play. Have the Detective Superintendent in charge of the case portrayed as a big, burly, miserable type to contrast with Irene’s lovable character. Then have her solve the case for him after sprinkling some red herrings along the way. The result was titled BUSYBODY and had quite a successful run a few years ago at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Now let a few years elapse and present a play called DEAD EASY. Cast Irene Handl in the role of a friendly cockney charlady.

Set the scene in the offices of a London business firm, and let her discover a dead body early in the proceedings. Let the Detective Superintendent in charge of the case be a humourless man who can’t solve the three murders that ensue, and let Irene solve the case for him.

With the exception of the various murders the two plays are almost identical. DEAD EASY is touring around and might reach the West End. Irene Handl gives yet another of her lovable, friendly performances, but other than that there isn’t much to recommend it.

Enlightened Fixation?

THE FOURTH ANGEL by John Rechy. Published by W. H Allen, £1.75

The Fourth Angel is the latest novel by John Rechy, who rose to stardom in gay cultural circles with his first book, City Of Night.

The latter, although weak on literary style, proved itself to be a masterpiece of its kind, as well as a valid study of one of society’s phenomena. City Of Night was concerned with the life and times of a male prostitute in the United States, and the emptiness and despairing dilemma of the central character is graphically described in a way that has never before been so direct and realistic. It is an important book, that deserves to be read by all gays.

Since the publication of that book, Rechy has produced four other novels, the most significant being This Day’s Death, with the most recent being this newly published work.

This time the plot evolves around four teenagers, three boys and a girl, all of whom are aged sixteen. Drug taking is an integral part of the story, and a reader’s response very much depends on his/her individual reaction to ‘pot’ and other ‘dope’. The four kids are bored and disillusioned, and are all very much casualties of modern urban civilisation. One of them, Jerry, the ‘fourth angel’, is still very much affected by the recent death of his mother. The ‘mother fixation’ is a recurring theme in most of Rechy’s work, it usually being an important factor in the story. Those familiar with his other novels will no doubt have drawn their own conclusions as to why this is.

As is also usual in Rechy’s writings, homosexuals have a prominent role to play in the story, although the anal rape scene in this book cannot be described as being primarily gay. But the way in which gayness is treated is relevant to the misguided way societies generally react towards the subject.

The Fourth Angel is a short book, consisting of only 158 pages, but it succeeds in making its point on most of the levels it tries to encompass. A disturbing, slightly despairing tale but honest in its approach, leaving the reader in no doubt that while Rechy does not place blame on anyone or anything, it is clear that, in his opinion American society has much to answer for.

Metaphors On Ice

ICE by Anna Kavan. Picador. 40p.

Inside the cover of this book is a photograph of the author. She leans forward, carefully curled hair, a neat sweater, a heart shaped locket, meticulously made-up and smiling. The sort of woman you see in country pubs on Sunday mornings.

Anna Kavan was a junkie for the last 30 years of her life, and died at 67 in London, 1968.

It is understandable that Ice, considered her best work, should be coloured by her experiences with heroin. In fact she has used ice as a metaphor for heroin. Vast glaciers of ice rapidly overtaking earth.

The plot is Kafka-esque search by a man for the girl he once loved. His search takes him through Northern countries rapidly being brought to a halt by a combination of ice and facism. Time and again he almost finds her, but she disappears or is killed, to be born again and provide the quarry for his hunt.

There is a terrible inevitability to the prose. Search, find, lose, lost – is the rhythm that dominates the book. Altogether a fine metaphysical sci-fi adventure that recalls C S Lewis, and certainly deserves to be read.

Needs To Be Noticed

COLLECTED POEMS by Ian Horobin. The Jameson Press, 160 Albion Road, London N16 9JS. Price £2.00.

To have John Betjeman, our newly crowned Poet Laureate, and Laurens van der Post each contribute a separate introduction to a book of poems is quite an achievement for a living poet. Ian Horobin is entitled to that achievement. His poems, to use his own words, “record (and, if possible, evoke) emotion — emotions of a long and varied life, in peace and war, success and failure, hope and sorrow.”

Horobin is a homosexual who has spent several years in English prisons and was also a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He was a Member of Parliament and a Junior Minister in the Macmillan Government of 1957-59. He was gazetted a Life Peer in 1962 but withdrew acceptance as his case was about to come up.

As John Betjeman says “Most poems speak for themselves”. A critical analysis would not be particularly useful, nor, in view of the great variation of the collection, would it be helpful to any potential reader. The poems divide themselves in character into those which express thoughts and emotions, those concerned with the war, and some critical pieces about politics, religion and events. These last will make the most popular appeal and the following quotations will suffice to show why.

From “Holy Orders’’

“A sneak, a pharisee, a dunce
Will tell you what God wants at once,
And do extremely well by it.
But is God really such a shit?”

“To an American Senator”

“Crown me Boston’s, Ireland’s pride;
Watch me run away and hide,
I have my fun with someone’s daughter
Leave her – head safe under water.
Now I’ll run for President,
With the IRA’s consent.
Christian murderers please note:
I’ve scooped the Roman Catholic vote”

From “Finis Coronat Opus”

“From the BBC the children suck
Propaganda and drivel and muck.
The interviewers are rarely civil
Pushing their poison and muck and drivel”.

From “Berber Goatherd”

Jesus loves me. This I know
For Ian Paisley tells me so.
But he hasn’t told us yet
What he thinks of Bernadette”.

Horobin has met with triumph and disaster in his life and has suffered humiliation and public disgrace. But his wit and humour survive and his poems deserve the recognition now denied to him.

A Statement From Angie

Angie Promotions Limited is a new company, formed recently by three London gays:

Mark Fenigstein, Public Relations Consultant;
Paul James, Interior Decorating Consultant
Steve Newman, Theatre Promotions.

We are tired of being ripped off by promotors who capitalise on gay people. We have formed the above company for the purpose of providing entertainments and events for gays of all sexes. We feel that for too long gay entertainment has been a second class substitute, badly presented, badly catered and poor value for money.

We also feel that most entertainment has solely been aimed at single sex audiences, not in the tradition of gay togetherness. With all the above in mind, we have arranged a series of events aimed at brightening up the gay scene, starting with an April Gay Ball to be held at one of London’s top hotels, on the last Friday in April.

The ball will present a buffet supper, two top cabarets presented in full cabaret style, plus a live group with full light show, and a galaxy of famous star guests, all at an inclusive price.

As this will be our first major venture, we are limiting the number of tickets available to the first three hundred applications. A form for applications will be included in the next issue of this paper.

So watch out for Angie!

Angie Promotions Ltd.,
5 Martindale Rd, SW12
Tel: 673-2433