there and doesn’t say anything. But actually he‘s sitting on a volcano Which explodes.‘
Charleson himself is a soft-spoken. smallish man. who apologises for lying down while he talks (which he does with gentle enthusiasm and candour). He has a curious accent — Scottish with an American burr that is clearly still clinging from his performance. On stage he manages to appear both mild and cruel. inspiring immense pity for a man who has walled himself into his own self-made prison and who is finished with trying to communicate.
Lonely. highly sensitive characters haunt many ofWilliams' plays. most of them semi-autobiographical.
On a volcano Throughout Cat people bemoan their inability to talk to one another and Williams wrote a preface to the play explaining very candidly how he tried to communicate through his writing: ‘Personal lyricism is the outcry of prisoner to prisoner from the cell in solitary where each is confined for the duration of his life.‘
His writing was his solace and his .
escape from a life dogged by family tensions and personal tragedy (both his mother and sister were so highly strung that they ended up institutionalized. and he never recovered from his discovery that his sister had been given a lobotomy); he himselfwas homosexual and developed an alcohol problem. Much of this is trapped in the ambivalent figure of Brick.
‘I think he’s a truly tragic character.‘ says Charleson. ‘Because he‘s a victim of the society in which he's been brought up. He's been right through the system and the poor man is just lost. And rather than be able to express that in any way. he‘s just taken to drink. He‘s like one of those people you see sitting around in bars just filling themselves with drink.
‘I think it‘s too narrow to say that he‘s a homosexual. because Brick doesn‘t want to be a homosexual. I don’t play him as a homosexual. The a fact is that because in American society there‘s no way you can go beyond thumping someone on the
shoulder as a gesture of affection between two men. any feelings that men have for each other become very. very complicated. Hence all that nigger-bashing and queer- bashing and all those other macho activities that go on in the USA. And what Brick has done is build his own lie - he‘s elevated this friendship he had with Skipper into something untouchable and pure that is actually a lie. But he doesn’t know that. he can‘t see that. which is what makes him a tragic character. The idea of being ‘a fairy‘ is so repellent to him. he just couldn’t possibly consider it — it’s unthinkable because of the way he‘s been brought up.‘
There is an added irony now. of course. to the controversy that surrounded the play‘s premiere. In
Cont. Over Page.
This page: Lyndsay Duncan as Maggie.
Facing page: Ian Charleso as Brick
The List 1‘) Feb — 3 Mar HHS 7