Director’s Note: Shaun Rennie, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER

1 May 2023

What happens when we try to contain, restrict or lock away primal, natural, human instincts? Why, in polite society, are we so scared to look the full spectrum of the human experience in the face? Who suffers when we don’t allow ugly, uncomfortable truths to be spoken? How do we use each other to survive? What is “truth”? These are some of the questions that Tennessee Williams asks us to consider in his gothic, poetic play, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER.

Williams famously used his own life as the source of inspiration for his works. His sister Rose suffered from mental illness and was one of the first people in America to receive a prefrontal lobotomy, authorised by their mother, Edwina, without Williams’ consent. This had a profound impact on Williams, both personally and artistically. He often explores themes related to mental illness, trauma, and the struggle for personal freedom and self-expression. This particular play explores the ways in which society tries to silence and control those who deviate from the “norm” and raises questions about the ethics of medical treatment for mental illness.

Having directed BABY DOLL, here at Ensemble in 2019, I am thrilled to be able to return to work on what Williams himself calls his “most poetic” of works. I am once again struck by the contemporary relevance. The play’s themes of gaslighting and the manipulation of truth have taken on renewed significance in the wake of recent social movements, and the play’s depiction of the way in which power, wealth, and privilege interact with how we perceive victims of trauma is still terrifyingly relevant today.

I am very grateful to Ensemble Theatre for the opportunity to return to work on another Tennessee Williams’ play with such an incredible cast and creative team, all of whom have brought creativity, rigour, humour and intellect into the room every day. It has been a joy.

– Shaun Rennie

Playing 15 May – 10 Jun, don’t miss this dark and poetic masterpiece by Tennesse Williams.