In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel

Miriam and Mark’s marriage is crumbling. Mark, a world-famous artist, spends his days at the canvas, convinced that he has discovered colour and that this will, in turn, revolutionise the art world. His belief is all-encompassing: an obsession which defines him and threatens to claim his sanity. Lascivious Miriam occupies herself by seducing other men in order to combat her loneliness and marital dissatisfaction. She has long facilitated her husband’s career and is denied independence from him. The play explores the complex dynamic of two individuals whose lives are inextricably linked in a destructive symbiosis.

Linda Marolowe gave an admirable and dignified performance as the witty, insatiable Miriam.

In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel is one of Tennessee Williams’ most experimental plays, one which is notoriously challenging for both actors and audience members. Language has a fragmentary quality which makes it impossible for characters to adequately articulate the thoughts, feeling and desires they experience. Sentences constantly trail off and objective meaning hangs like a wisp in the air, maddeningly out of reach. Throughout their arguments, Miriam and Mark speak at cross-purposes, lose their trains of thought, pick up splinters of past conversations and ultimately find themselves unable to forge a meaningful connection. The beauty and tragedy of this play is that the characters are unable to successfully communicate their love for one another or voice the pain that such co-dependence causes them.

It is no easy task for two actors to convincingly portray a nuanced relationship when language proves itself so unreliable and, unfortunately, this performance fell short. Linda Marolowe gave an admirable and dignified performance as the witty, insatiable Miriam. Her interpretation was full of sensuality and vitality. Marlowe is a commanding presence onstage, challenging the audience keep apace with Miriam’s volatile, erratic disposition; she simultaneously brought poise and fragility to the role, marrying the many conflicting elements of Miriam’s character.

David Whitworth was less convincing as Mark, the tortured artist seemingly on the cusp of madness. This is a more difficult role in many ways, not least because the audience is not privy to Mark’s interior life (Miriam is able to garner sympathy more readily due to frequent asides and soliloquies). Whitworth had moments of real pathos, particularly in the second half where he was on notably better form, but they were undermined by an indeterminate accent, pantomime falls and hammy fits of shouting. Unfortunately, Marlowe and Whitworth did not make a believable match; together they lacked the undercurrent intimacy and compassion which was required for the audience to fully invest in their failing marriage. Indeed, both Marlowe and Whitworth performed best in the company of Alan Turkington, who played the flamboyant Leonard – Mark’s art dealer – with sensitivity and a comedic flair.

It must be noted that the set designed by Nicolai Hart-Hansen was one of the most impressive features of this production. Lush but also intimate, the bar itself was vividly evocative of the late nineteen-sixties and created a realistic backdrop against which the domestic tragedy could take place. Watching this play felt wickedly and voyeuristic, an intrusion mirrored by the constant presence of the Barman, Andrew Koji.

This production of In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel is worth seeing for Linda Marlowe’s excellent performance as the troubled, voracious Miriam. However, due in part to to the complexity of Tennessee Williams’ script and exacerbated by a lack of chemistry between the leads, the torpid relationship between Miriam and Mark meant that this play never really got off the ground.

Reviews by Cal Kenny

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel tickets available now at the Charing Cross Theatre

The Master of American Drama Tennessee Williams is back at the Charing Cross with one of his most extraordinary and complex plays!

In his 1969 play In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, Williams explores a marital breakdown and the artist's desire to create, drawing inspiration from his own life and career.

Mark is a world-famous painter afraid he has lost his muse. His desperate, ambitious wife Miriam sees only his failure and disintegration. But Mark can sense a new art-form developing, and both characters embark on a journey of self-discovery. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Williams' witty, mesmerising and profound masterpiece was last seen in London in 1983, the year of his death.

Do not miss this very limited run at the perfectly intimate Charing Cross Theatre