Thursday, September 23, 2010

'Bus Stop' by William Inge

23 September 2010

The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick really is, as the name implies, right on the shore of Derwent Water. It’s a beautiful setting for a lovely auditorium which is home to an impressive repertory company which tackles a rotating, varied programme of plays over the summer months: as in Pitlochry it is possible to stay a week and see several plays. We saw William Inge’s play ‘Bus Stop’ – chiefly remembered for having been made into a film starring Marilyn Monroe. Inge knew Tennessee Williams and you can see his influence but ‘Bus Stop’ is a lighter, less intense work than the classic Williams plays. It’s a great dramatic premise: when a cross-country bus is held up by bad weather, the passengers have to spend the night in a diner in a small town in Kansas. This allows for a series of hushed conversations, leading to confrontations and revelations as the night wears on and the liquor flows. At first the play has a light, comic feel with broadly drawn cartoon characters. But as the story develops there is much more to it than you initially expect. ‘Bus Stop’ is a clever, sad and funny work with some dark undertones. It also boasts two great comic set-piece scenes in the second and third acts. The Theatre by the Lake production was very effective and extremely well-cast with Amy Ewbank just right as Cherie and Patrick Bridgman subtly stealing the show as the thoughtful cowboy Virgil. Cherie, the main character, is a ditzy, blonde night-club singer hoping to escape to a better life: at the interval I was amused to hear the woman sitting behind me ask her companion “which part did Marilyn Monroe play in the film?”!

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