27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Tennessee Williams

Fox and Hound Theatre Comany

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

From 05 August 2016 to 27 August 2016

Rating: ****

Review by Catherine Lamm

A freestanding swing with some rustic tools set the stage and tone for one of Tennessee Williams’s longer one-acts in a collection of one-acts under the same name.

It is a slice of life in a very rural part of the US South between the two world wars when many had little and lawlessness on a minor level was understood and, at the time, accepted. Williams had an intimate knowledge of these people; this is what he came from. He would later develop this into the full-length play Babydoll.

Flora is the fragile and childlike wife of amoral Jake. When the town’s very profitable cotton gin mysteriously burns down, owner Silva comes to Jake with his 27 wagons full of cotton. In exchange for the opportunity to gin the cotton, Jake offers Silva the "company" of his wife. She offers ice cold lemonade and he get so much more.

What has happened and what will happen is raw and violent. Flora seems to accept her part in the bargain as part of life. She is as resilient as she is fragile.

Codge Crawford has a true feel for Jake, the accent, the relationships, the violence and the grittiness, although he is at times he seems a little out of place. Stephen Carruthers can’t quite find Silva on any level but marks all the places. It is Helen Fox who has nailed Flora in a unique way. She finds the balance of fragility and strength so in evidence in all of Williams’s women. Williams's language and writing is loaded.

As there is no director credited, this is one person sorely missing and would or could solve many of the weaknesses in the production, not the least of which is Ms Fox’s costume which takes on a life of its own and takes over the focus of the play in the second part.

Fox and Hound has done a serviceable and worthy 27 Wagons.