Suddenly, Last Summer is one of Tennessee Williams’ lesser knowing work- usurped by his plays, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – but it is, nonetheless, as vital and rich as any work he has ever written. This will be Red Stitch Theatre’s first foray into a Williams text, and creatives are excited to be on board this maiden voyage into Williams’ surrealistic dreamscape. Directed by Stephen Nicolazzo (Little Ones Theatre), this production will be special!

For actor (and one of the founding members of Red Stitch), Kate Cole, being involved in the show is a challenge she simply could not pass up. For Cole, it was a play and opportunity that enticed from the word go.

“I’ve always wanted to be in a Tennessee Williams play, and to work with Stephen Nicolazzo, so when he approached Red Stitch with the idea of doing this play and of me playing Catherine, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. It’s a magnificent beast of a play, the stakes for all the characters are so high. It’s a big challenge to do as an actor, but they are always the best roles and plays to do.”

Cole says her first reading of the play was like going down the rabbit hole into a beautiful nightmare.

“So much of the play is about beauty, trying to desperately create it and hold on to it lest the brutality of the outside world get through, and the beauty and poetry is expressed in the language.”

Cole plays Catherine, a witness to a truly horrific occurrence which, for her elderly aunt Violet Venable , must remain a secret at all costs.

Cole says the play speaks to being an outsider, and how the world treats those who don’t fit the social norms.

“Catherine Holly is a big bright burning life force, who has always been treated as if she were perverse and an embarrassment to the family. Her cousin Sebastian, who is the central figure in the play but is not seen, is a kindred spirit in many ways, and together they are chewed up and spat out. Catherine is the witness to what happens to Sebastian.”

sud 1

First staged in 1958, Suddenly, Last Summer is a hard hitting, disturbing and quite brutal one act play dealing with aging, greed, self loathing, fear, and sexual repression.

Says Cole: “A big theme is loneliness, and what we do to keep it from slowly killing us, or how we self sabotage as we feel we don’t deserve to be loved.”

“Tennessee was going through conversion therapy when he wrote this in the 1950’s so all that turmoil and self loathing that was being forced upon him has been put into what happens to Sebastian. All the characters are fighting for survival in a world that represses them in some way, like it does with all of us, and that deep need to transcend this grubby existence and the inability to really do so, no matter what we do, gets warped and turned into destructive behaviour. Just look at how we behave on social media. Everyone is in this mad righteous screaming pit of awfulness.”

Williams wrote with humanity, pain and an insight into the human condition that has not been matched by many in the literary world. However, all is not bleak and sombre because even some of the darker moments are lightened by our innate ability to laugh at self – even through madness.

Suddenly, Last Summer prods and pokes at our baser self unapologetically but Cole acknowledges there is so much humour in it.

“Stephen has brought more of that out. And he has placed it in a stylised dream world, in a kind of garden of Eden, where the poetry and nightmarish madness of what happens can take full flight. Catherine says ‘I think I’m just dreaming this, it doesn’t seem real’, and that’s where this story is told. Not quite of this earth.”

Cole trained in NYC and LA with Uta Hagen, and The Actors Studio Lifetime Members Marcia Haufrecht and Sharon Chatten. Theatre credits include: Jumpers For Goalposts, Out Of The Water, About Tommy, The Laramie Project 10 Years Later  and Day One. A Hotel. Evening. TV credits include: Endurance Island, Dogwoman, Neighbours, Stingers, Crash Burn and Blue Heelers. But what is her favourite genre?

“I love all the genres,” she readily states. “All actors want to inhabit complex people who live in the grey areas, like all of us do but tend to forget. Things have become very black and white, right and wrong. You want characters to go through extraordinary circumstances, or transgress in some way, find themselves doing something they never thought they would. And if there is humour and wit in the writing that is a delight to perform.”

“Catherine is now one of my favourite characters. I love her wit, her strength, her life force. She’s also going to be wearing a gorgeous dress which I’m thrilled about! I’ve really loved all the characters I’ve played, but highlights are being The Pilot from ‘Grounded’, Sara Jane Moore from ‘Assassins’, Bolla from ‘The Night Heron’ and Judith from ‘The Night Season’. They were all brilliantly written characters and I miss them.”

sud 2

Suddenly, Last Summer is a monumental work wherein  the poetic and lyrical  juxtapose with the brutal and forlorn. It is theatre told by a master oft capable of creating beauty out of savagery.

Cole believes there is something primal about having stories told to us. “We need it,” she states. “Be it macabre, sad, funny, romantic, frightening, it doesn’t matter what it is just let me loose myself in a story. If you’re finding the world intolerable at the moment, come and see flesh and blood humans not separated by a screen telling a story by a masterful writer and let it transport you for a brief moment.”

October 4 – November 4