Survival of the fittest is a healthy process which is sometimes best left undisturbed. When a play by a well-known playwright is 'rediscovered' long after the playwright's death, it can either be a wonderful thing: a lost masterpiece finding its way back to the stage, or it can be an example of
While it is interesting to see a work-in-progress version of the themes, characters and devices that Williams would later go on to master, the play itself is very long, quite boring and not particularly coherent or developed. For instance, Williams' use of pathetic fallacy, which is absolutely electric in, for example, Sweet Bird of Youth, is by contrast lazy in Spring Storm; it's just constantly raining. It is interesting that the Oxford School of Drama set themselves such a challenge in choosing it for this showcase piece; the students' job was harder than it might otherwise have been. This was especially true since there was a further obstacle: many of the parts were doubled in order to give all the students a chance to present themselves. Whilst understandable, this did make it hard to invest in the narrative.
The standout performances, then, were even more commendable in the context. Lauren Moakes' interpretation of the lead, Heavenly Critchfield, had a compelling mixture of flippancy and nervous energy; in her capable hands, the character really came alive and made sense. Ryan Dooey as Richard 'Dick' Miles had a charm and an energy which made a wonderful opening to the piece. Claire Bowman had an incredibly hard task as Hertha Nielson, a character whose narrative trajectory is in two parts. Bowman, coming in to the part in the second half, managed to build a sense of the character's vulnerability in a nuanced performance. Finally, Isobel Eadie and Ella Bruccoleri, who played Heavenly's very funny aunt, Lila Critchfield, both brought out the comedy with subtlety and warmth in their quite different but equally enjoyable interpretations.
There were many points in the favour of this production; it made really good use of the space and the set, lighting and sound design was atmospheric and exciting. The play itself is full of moments of tension which were well drawn out by the cast and the director. The themes, of honour, love vs passion, and regret, among others, surfaced at times in tantalising snippets of exploration. It was an interestingly disappointing evening's entertainment.