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Suddenly Last Summer By Tennessee Williams

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by Jenny Hatton Mahon (subscribe)
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The inconvenient truth in polite society
In Suddenly Last Summer by American playwright Tennessee Williams, we are witness to a high-stakes battle of wills between Violet Venable, the matriarch of a prominent and wealthy family, and her niece Catharine, the sole witness to her cousin Sebastian's death in Spain the previous Summer.

The plot centres on Catharine who, at the insistence of her wealthy Aunt Violet, is forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Sugar to uncover "the truth" of Sebastian's untimely and shocking death. The doctor finds himself in the middle of powerful family dynamics and under pressure to discern memory from reality, truth from falsehood and to perform a lobotomy on Catharine at the bidding of Violet.

The Ensemble Theatre production of Suddenly Last Summer is a stunning and immersive experience, taking the audience into a peaceful garden of flourishing, exotic plants where the dark secrets of a family are dug up and unearthed. This is a family who will go to any lengths and use others to protect their legacy and reputation. They are under threat from the truth, mental illness and power dynamics. The impact of trauma on memory and the struggle for personal freedom unfolds as the story is told.

Inspired by his own life experiences and the profound impact of mental illness within his own family, Tennessee Williams' work is deeply personal, and Suddenly Last Summer does not shy away from the ways in which society tries to silence and control those who deviate from the "norm" and the ethics of medical treatment for mental illness.

Published as a one-act play in 1958, Suddenly Last Summer is as relevant today as it was then in its telling of the lengths people will go to to keep the truth from surfacing. The story has been thoughtfully and beautifully brought to life by the cast* and director** in the Ensemble Theatre production and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats until the very end.

Suddenly Last Summer is playing at the Ensemble Theatre from 18 May 2023 to 10 June 2023.

Tickets can be purchased here.


Valerie Bader (Mrs Holly)

Andrea Demetriades (Catharine)

Belinda Giblin (Violet Venable)

Remy Hii (Doctor "Sugar")

Socratis Otto (George)

Kate Skinner (Miss Foxhill/Sister Felicity)


Shaun Rennie

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*Jenny Hatton Mahon was invited as a guest
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Why? Family secrets
When: 18 May - 10 June 2023
Where: Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli NSW 2061
Cost: $38 - $80 (discounts for group bookings)
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