Review: I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark On Sundays, Cock Tavern

“I sense this is going to be a sticky run-through”

I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark On Sundays is one of two Tennessee Williams’ plays, previously unperformed, which the Cock Tavern are putting on to mark what would have been his 100th birthday year. I Never Get Dressed… is actually an unpublished work, being written in 1970 immediately after his departure from rehab.

Tye and Jane are two lovers in a bedsit in a sleazy quarter of 1970s New Orleans. He is a stripper, in cahoots with the gangster running the place and driving Jane up the wall with his lazy promiscuous ways. She’s a New Yorker, a former actress trying to make it as a fashion designer but struggling to attract the right interest without having to sell herself. As ever with Williams’, the characters fit into recognizable archetypes: Tye is a strapping brute and indeed the word strapping might have been invented for the bear-ish Lewis Hayes who spends a large proportion of the play in just a flesh-coloured jockstrap; and Jane is a fragile soul, disturbed by the chatter of tourists outside, her decline into poverty, played well by Shelley Lang and they make a destructively persuasive couple. But that is not all.

Director Hamish MacDougall makes clever use of the space at the Cock Tavern, and as it is revealed that in fact what we are watching is the final rehearsal of a play, certain strange things that didn’t quite make sense as we entered suddenly clicked into place. The dramatic entrance of the man next to me who was making notes throughout turned out to be Cameron Harris’ money-hungry director who was highly entertaining (and made proper notes!) The screechy warnings from the side came from the camply entertaining if a little overdone turn from Graham Dickson as the stage manager and his warnings went to Keith Myers’ grizzled, sizzled playwright. Initially a small comic part but as Williams’ intent becomes clear towards the end, he generates a beautiful poignancy with a final scene of deep meaning, revealing the frustration of a playwright to translate true tragedy into writing.

Often there is a reason that undiscovered works by great names have not seen the light of day. I Never Get Dressed… doesn’t reach the heights of his well-known plays but neither is it a complete clunker which ought to go back to collecting dust. Lang and Hayes do well at switching between this steamy love story and playing the doubtful, arrogant actors questioning the validity of the writing until the playwright finally intercedes. Consequently, it falls somewhere in-between as a nice curiosity, definitely recommended for Tennessee Williams fans and for anyone with an hour or so to kill in Kilburn.

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £1
Booking until 26th March

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