Tag Archives: Linda Marlowe

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore


Charing Cross Theatre




The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

“There are moments of quality craftsmanship, but you could find them much more easily in one of Williams’ better-known works.”


Putting on a lesser known, or “rarely performed” Tennessee Williams play does not instil much confidence as an idea, I must say. It’s possible, of course that director Robert Chevara has found a discarded diamond, but that seems unlikely given that a quick internet search reveals two failed productions and a poorly received movie adaptation of The Milk Train in Williams’ lifetime. So, what does Chevara have in mind to make of this production what Williams couldn’t?

It’s got many of the hallmarks of a Williams play of course: a Southern belle past her prime, an anecdote-heavy script full of would-be parables, plenty of denial and repression, and lots of alcohol: Flora Goforth (Linda Marlowe), a once famous beauty, has isolated herself on her vast estate in Spoleto, Italy with only her put-upon secretary, Blackie (Lucie Shorthouse) and a security staff to keep her company. She’s dying, though it appears she either truly doesn’t know or refuses to accept. One day a strange young(ish) man, Chris Flanders (Sanee Raval) comes to visit. Rumour has it, he only calls on elderly women who are about to die, but his good looks and helplessness sway Flora to keep him on site.

The programme suggests that The Milk Train is an homage to Williams’ long-time lover, Frank Merlo, who died a year before the play was written. So, perhaps it was Williams’ fear of revealing his romantic inclinations on stage so overtly that had him make such strange narrative choices. Chris is a bizarre character profile, and his presence is never satisfactorily explained: Is he there to take advantage of a rumoured-to-be dying woman, or is he there in his capacity as Angel of Death, in which case, huh?

Raval has fully leant into the strangeness of his character, acting as though he were experiencing regular acid flashbacks. Marlowe is sufficient as Flora, but she loses some of the better lines in her concentration to get the accent right- something she doesn’t always achieve.

Shorthouse is, again, sufficient, although she appears rather brusque with her employer, veering on rude from the very beginning, whereas one would expect a bit of a switch later when Blackie finally decides to quit.

It’s a little strange to pitch the show on both Linda Marlowe, who plays the main role, and Sara Kestelman who only has a bit-part. But it makes perfect sense in this production, because Kestelman is absolutely fabulous as the bitchy, elderly party girl, and Flora’s frenemy. Despite having only a handful of lines, she manages to flesh out the character so that we feel we know her entirely.

Nicolai Hart-Hansen’s design is a fairly standard Tennessee Williams set-up: a big bed, a fully stocked bar, and lots of walking space for the characters to ruminate aloud at length.

There’s been an attempt to modernise: iPhones instead of landlines, and an iPad instead of paper and pen. It doesn’t quite make sense, but it’s really neither here nor there; a minor distraction in an already peculiar story.

Williams clearly had something particular to say, but he’s gone to so much effort to disguise the biographical elements of this story, that it no longer really makes sense. Consequently, Chevara was never really going to be able to make more of this story than he has- the script just isn’t strong enough. And everything else inevitably follows suit. There are moments of quality craftsmanship, but you could find them much more easily in one of Williams’ better-known works.



Reviewed on 3rd October 2022

by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Nick Haeffner



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Pippin | ★★★★ | July 2021
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | November 2021
Ride | ★★★★★ | August 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews


The Silence of Snow

The Silence of Snow

Jack Studio Theatre

The Silence of Snow

The Silence of Snow

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 14th March 2019



“the play does not move its audience as much as it should, though it certainly entertains”


On entering the Jack Studio Theatre, the stage is bare but for a spotlit figure in a white hospital gown that the lighting tinges blue. It’s late afternoon, we soon learn, in Muswell Hill and there is a gas fire. Patrick Hamilton is waiting for his last round of electroconvulsive therapy, bottle in hand, as he invites us into his story.

You may know Hamilton for his success as a writer in the early 1900s. The hit plays ‘Rope’ and ‘Gaslight’ were both his, and he penned several successful novels: ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’, ‘Hangover Square’ and ‘The Slaves of Solitude’, snippets of which we see punctuating Hamilton’s life story. What you may not know is that Hamilton was an alcoholic, and his drinking had a massive impact on his relationships with family and lovers.

Written and performed by Mark Farrelly, a dark life story is told with wit and a love of language. Farrelly frequently addresses the audience directly, knowing nods to a contemporary listener. There is a playful energy to the piece, despite the constant hanging presence of drink which features in both his life and his plays. Farrelly throws himself into the many characters that grace the stage, and is consistently engaging and energised in this one man show.

The portrayals of some of the characters are a bit heavy handed at points, overly emphatic in a way that undermines their truthfulness, and means the play does not move its audience as much as it should, though it certainly entertains. The female characters are given little distinction and are not drawn with sufficient vividness to make them real. From the glimpses we get of them they seem like potentially fascinating characters, whose contributions to this story go untapped. Whilst the drunk scene of verbal abuse is a particularly strong moment in the play in terms of emotional impact, it could be even stronger if we had a clearer picture of those on the other side. The scene also goes on just a little bit longer than it needs to, something that the play as a whole suffers from. The language is incredibly rich and clever throughout. Whilst this seems appropriate for Hamilton’s own taste, and the depiction of a writer’s life, moments of simplicity in both language and portrayal would help root this play in its emotional story.

Full of potential, wit and life, The Silence of Snow needs to strip itself back and find the truth of the narrative and the people involved, so that it really makes the impact the narrative deserves.

The play is dedicated to Tim Welling, who was the first person to read the play but took his life before he could see it performed. As a tribute to this Farrelly runs a collection for MIND after every show, and has so far raised a stunning £7,500.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown


The Silence of Snow

Jack Studio Theatre until 16th March


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018
Radiant Vermin | ★★★★ | November 2018
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Cinderella | ★★★ | December 2018
Gentleman Jack | ★★★★ | January 2019
Taro | ★★★½ | January 2019
As A Man Grows Younger | ★★★ | February 2019
Footfalls And Play | ★★★★★ | February 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com