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Review: Tennessee Williams adaptation One Arm, Southwark Playhouse

One-Arm2Adapted from a short story and un-produced screenplay by Tennessee Williams, One Arm tells the story of Ollie (Tom Varey) a prize-winning boxer who loses his arm and winds up on death row.

Flicking back and forth between Ollie awaiting his execution in prison and the story of how he ended up there, this is a tragic tale of a life full of promise to a life cut short.

When Ollie loses his arm he loses his livelihood and is forced to hustle on the streets. He is good looking and people are drawn to him because of his missing arm but for Ollie it makes him feel incomplete and ugly and he retreats emotionally.

He finds it difficult to settle and ends up travelling widely, making an impression wherever he goes. It isn't until he is in the last few weeks of his life that he realises just what an impression he has made.

Ollie's sad journey is peppered with colourful characters and there are some lighter moments but it is in those smaller, quieter brush strokes when this play has most of its power. Those moments when Ollie starts to feel a connection or suppressed emotions.

Varey does a great job as the troubled, empty and emotionally lost Ollie. However, it is Joe Jameson who made the biggest impression as he deftly switches through an eclectic mix of characters from 'Cherry' the camp pimp to the meek seminary student who wants to save Ollie's soul.

It is simply staged with some nice touches such as the mirrored walls to the cell but with some of the movement work and embellishments it sometimes feels like it is trying a little too hard.

The society Ollie ends up mixing with was probably a bit to racy for Hollywood at the time, to be turned into a film but it works well adapted as a play. You can catch it at the Southwark Playhouse until July 2.


Joe Jameson was in Great Expectation in which Ralph Fiennes who's in the Bond films with Mr W.