Adolescent wedding tale fails to ring true for its mature star

Review by Paul Nelson

Picture shows: Yvonne Gidden as Berenice, with Oliver Golding as John Henry and Louisa Millwood-Haigh as Frankie in The Member of the Wedding.

WITH The Member of the Wedding, the mega talented Carson McCullers once again touches on the pain of love and its violent world.

In this case, it is a rebellious child starting to go through what used to be known as a difficult period, in other words, adolescence and puberty.

Neither one thing nor the other, child or adult, Frankie sees her world as hostile with everything she holds dear being kept from her, or just plain taken away.

To this effect she really gets going when her brother decides to marry and she is naturally refused the chance to go with him and his bride. The fact is brought home to her that in fact a wedding is between two people. Two's company and three is a crowd, as Berenice tells her. That is where the truth hurts. Frankie does not want to be left with the agony of being alone without her brother. He is the only thing that matters to her.

The novel, set in a small town in Georgia, all dust, heat and decay, was published in 1946 and successfully dramatised by the author for production in 1950. It was a tremendous success and made an excellent film.

It is somewhat difficult to see what that effect could have been on a British audience in 1952 and its production at the Attic in Wimbledon does little to explain it.

Part of the trouble lies with the casting of a much more mature actress to play the 12-year-old girl. What should be sympathetic and moving becomes tiresome.

However, the sense of injustice and isolation are well brought to the fore, largely through the strong performances of Berenice, all sympathy but as in all such cases virtually powerless, and the small boy John Henry. His lack of comprehension of any of the deeper emotions causes Frankie to have even greater fears of growing up and, in her eyes, being deserted and left to disintegrate.

There is another superb set which makes anyone wonder how this tiny theatre manages to do it, and the whole is drenched in a torpid sunlight which greatly assists the production and typifies Georgia.

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers Presented by the Attic Theatre Co. Designed by Gabriella Csanyi-Wills with Lighting Design by Roger Frith. Yvonne Gidden (Berenice Sadie Brown), Louisa Millwood-Haigh (Frankie Addams), Henry Maloney (John Henry West), Jeff Ashley (Jarvis Addams), Tash Johnson (Janice/Helen), Mark Sangster (Mr Addams), Heather Rome (Mrs West), Mark Ramsey (TT Williams), Paul Blackstock (Honey Camden Brown).
Directed by Jennie Lee at the Studio Theatre, Wimbledon Broadway. 020 8540 0362. Until March 23.