The impressive set captures both the feeling and atmosphere of the cinema and stage, particularly at the beginning of the play when each room is revealed one at a time through the darkness. After a few minutes the curtain comes down and the title and author's name are reflected on it. When it raises again the set has been transformed in to a large run down yard at the back of the house.
Denounced as immoral in 1956, the story is set in the deep south and concerns 19 year old Baby Doll, who has vowed to deny her older husband sex until her 20th birthday, at which time she believes she will be a woman and no longer a child. Her 20th birthday is only a few days away and her husband's frustration will then be over. However, she will not agree to consummate the marriage unless she believes her husband, Archie Lee, is providing a decent home for her.
Archie Lee's business is failing and the household furniture is due to be taken back by the bailiffs. This causes him extreme stress, as he knows his sexual frustration will continue if this happens. When the furniture is finally re-possessed he seeks revenge on his Sicilian rival, Silva Vaccarro, who he holds responsible for destroying his business with a new modern cotton plant. What ensures is a "Tit for Tat" situation with Baby Doll caught in the middle.
Tennessee Williams' has always been radical, and his plays always contain sexual and sinister overtones, with violence and a hint of perverse humour. Baby Doll is no exception!
It is an absorbing story with some interesting characters that keep you intrigued to the very end. Baby Doll is a simple woman who is not well educated. She lives in a fantasy world, in which she clings to the past and to memories of her dead father. She re-enforces her belief that she is still only a child by sleeping in a cot in the nursery. She appears to be both naive and innocent, yet at the same time, she can be strong minded and stubborn! Silva Vaccarro, a Sicilian who owns the Syndicate Plantation which has put most of his competitors out of business, is bent on revenge for having his Plantation burnt down, but is the seduction of Baby Doll is main quest, or is it much more?
The acting, yet again, is excellent. I say yet again because it is so rare to find poor acting on the London stage these days. Charlotte Emmerson, is convincing and delicious as Baby Doll, Jonathan Cake is a fine 'hunky' Silva Vaccarro, and Paul Brennen is great as the frustrated loser Archie Lee Meighan. Also worth mentioning is the brilliant performance of Georgine Anderson as dotty Aunt Rose Comfort, who reads the local paper to find friends and non-friends who are in hospital so that on the pretext of visiting them she can eat their chocolates!
Baby Doll has received good reviews from the popular press….. THE INDEPENDENT says, "As expertly played by Jonathan Cake and Charlotte Emerson, the long scene of sultry brinkmanship has more erotic voltage then most torrid couplings and it culminates in a breathtaking hide-and-seek chase.." THE DAILY MAIL says, "Slow in parts, the evening finally delivers a glorious affidavit to Williams and will, I promise you, be remembered, warts and all, as a landmark revival." TIME OUT says, "Charlotte Emmerson as Baby Doll manages the difficult feat of growing up on stage while Cake keeps us guessing about his intentions throughout. Together they make the temperature soar and finally break the thermometer." THE STAGE calls Charlotte Emmerson's performance "Stunning". THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Charlotte Emmerson makes a troublingly alluring Baby Doll. All her costumes seem a size too small and she achieves a devastating blend of little-girl innocence and husky-voiced sensuality." THE GUARDIAN was not too impressed though saying, "For the most part Williams's writing is too crudely explicit and suggestive to be interesting."
Baby Doll is a tense, gripping play with some light humour. It is a little slow towards the end of the first act, which spoils the play somewhat, but the pace picks up in the second act resulting in a climatic finish.