Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 22nd October 2022
Reviewed by Celia Armand Smith
When a play is described as “rarely performed”, you have to wonder why. Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore has had a rocky past on stage and screen despite being one of his most passionate projects, reflecting a time of personal grief and sorrow. It’s been revived numerous times and rewritten, but it’s always stumbled, never managing to compare to his other, more notable works.
Set on the Amalfi Coast in 1962, a wealthy four time widow, Sissy Goforth (Linda Marlowe), is dictating her colourful memoirs to her assistant Miss Black (Lucie Shorthouse). Aware that the end is nigh, she vaguely reminisces about her multiple husbands and the life she’s lived. That is until a mysterious young poet arrives at her door. Christopher Flanders (Sanee Raval), known locally as ‘The Angel of Death’ because of his propensity for turning up just as wealthy, elderly women are about to die, comes to see Mrs Goforth, and we see if he will live up to his title. She is also visited by a high spirited old friend known as the ‘Witch of Capri’ (Sara Kestelman) which creates some light relief, however her part is over way too soon.
If this play was written now, someone would make a meme about how it could have been an email. It is more an essay about Tennessee Williams’ thoughts on death and the meaning of life. The director, Robert Chevara, is an expert in Tennessee Williams, and though there are some gestures made to stay truthful to the setting, there are some strange choices. Mobile phones and some characters wearing more modern clothing butt heads with more period dress and anecdotes about Truman Capote.
The production design by Nicolai Hart-Hansen is simple and used to great effect by the cast. Utilising different parts of the theatre including the balcony and the stairs, you felt like you were in the house with the characters.
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore makes for interesting viewing if you are a Tennessee Williams completist, and covers some big topics. However, I think that maybe this play should be, like the elderly “victims” of Christopher Flanders, laid to rest.