23:00, Wed 30th January – Sat 2nd February 2008 at ADC Theatre
Lent Week 2
A minor masterpiece from Tennessee Williams' lesser known explorations into the theatre of the 'Outrageous'; featuring a giant pelican, a drunken fisherman, a Hollywood Indian, two stoned female clowns and a tragic ex-Vaudevillian soubrette, accompanied with a Chaplinesque set and an on-stage gypsy-klezmer band, THE GNADIGES FRAULEIN (The Gracious Maid) will be an unprecedented theatrical experience at the ADC theatre.
Written in the 1960's, during his self-professed 'stoned age', Tennessee Williams found himself spurned by critics for not producing another Glass Menagerie or Streetcar; the original Broadway production closed after only six days of performance. But this was more of a sign of Williams' transgressive talent than failed artistry; in his own words it was "a grotesque comedy that was incomprehensible to people" but "everyone has the tears that are expressed in this play". This is not, as narrow-minded critics have claimed, a second rate attempt at the theatre of the absurd but a logical climax of themes and emotions that are central to Williams' theatre: tragedy, comedy, black humour, pathos, the grotesque, melodrama and an underlying spirit of endurance pitted against the unrelenting cruelty of the world.
The play is set in Cocaloony Key, a non-realistic evocation of the Southern Florida Keys in which giant birds that resemble Pelicans (Cocaloonies) ominously co-inhabit with their human counterparts. In order to pay her rent for the local boarding house, run by a cruel and clownish landlady, Molly, the 'Fraulein' has to submit herself to a savage, daily contest with the Cocaloonies to catch fish from the harbour. As the two unsympathetic clowns watch her clockwork battle with the birds they wonder if she has "guts enough to fight the good fight or will she retire from the fish-docks like she did from show business?"
It is at once deeply tragic and profoundly comic. This production will be infused with a faithful spirit of play, spectacle, sensitivity and, most importantly, a commitment to entertain, move and disturb its audience.