Press ESC or click the X to close this window

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Venue: Charing Cross Theatre. The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NL

Credits: By Tennessee Williams. Presented by Charing Cross Theatre Productions Limited

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

3 stars


Photo: Nick Haeffner

Tennessee Williams’ 1963 play about a difficult, wealthy, dying woman and a poet who makes a habit of visiting such women and “overseeing” their end, doesn’t get many outings. So this revival is an interesting project.

There are, however, problems. While there’s some faultless acting, of which more shortly, it’s a very wordy play and the pace is slow. Moreover, Director Robert Chevara and his team have elected to set this sixty-year-old play “in the present” so we get lots of mobile phones, and mentions of credit cards. On the other hand there are distracting inconsistencies such as much stage business with cigarettes and references to Truman Capote and Gore Vidal as though they were still alive. It feels like a play which can’t quite work out where it is.

We’re on the Amalfi Coast where insufferable Flora Goforth (Linda Marlowe), an American married four times,  is writing her memoirs with the help of her long suffering but assertive secretary, Blackie (Lucie Shorthouse – excellent). After a slightly nervous start on press night  Marlowe plays this huge role with plenty of flair packing in imperiousness, vulnerability, sexual longing, self delusion,  self importance and many rapid mood changes.

As Chris Flanders, the poet who turns up, is attacked by her dogs and her body guard (Joe Ferrera) but eventually is invited to stay, Sanee Raval is convincing. It’s a nuanced interpretation of a complex character. He isn’t just looking for dying people to exploit. At some level he genuinely wants to help although he’s also an opportunist. Raval makes him charismatic enough to be credible.

Sara Kestelan, clad in floaty scarlet with a wonderful turban, is a show stealer as Mrs Goforth’s “friend”. Actually she’s a very bitchy manipululor.  Kestelman, who has a good way with  sneers and put-downs, makes her very funny – in a chilling sort of way.

There’s also some nice work from young actor, Matteo Johnson as Rudy – a sort of man-of-all-work in Mrs Goforth’s household, protesting in Italian while trying to keep on the right side of everyone.

The play is said to have been partly a response to the death of Williams’s long term lover, Frank Merlo. It certainly raises and discusses questions about death and acceptance or denial of its inevitability but there are some strange strands which don’t add much – such as the emphasis on the isolation of Mrs Goforth’s house up a mountain and the guarding of it by dogs. There are also subplots crying out to be developed. I’d dearly like to know more about Blackie’s back story, for instance.

First published by Sardines:


Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
More posts by Susan Elkin