Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 Theatre Review: Jacob Storms’ Tennessee Rising – The Dawn of Tennessee Williams (Assembly Rooms) ★★★★

Based on the life and career of Tennessee Williams, Jacob Storms’ compelling one man show examines his unexplored years with both wit and sincerity.

Jacob Storms in Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams.

Thoughfully written and comprehensively researched, Tennessee Rising introduces the audience to Tom, an up-and-coming writer who is yet to be known by his more famous nom de plume. He admits to being over the age required to submit to a writing contest, hence the need for an alter ego, and when he wins it the pen name (and 3 year age difference) is cemented.

Storms narrates Williams’ early life, from childhood illness and a puritanical mother to acquiring a typewriter – his enduring solace from melancholy. His affinity for the work of Hart Crane, and the impact of the poet’s suicide, are expertly recounted (Crane was beaten for allegedly making advances on a crew member on a ship, and subsequently threw himself overboard). The disintegration of his sister Rose’s mental state, which saw her admitted to an asylum and eventually lobotomised, cast a shadow over Williams’ life, and become a repeated motif in his plays, in particular The Glass Menagerie and Suddenly Last Summer.

Jacob Storms in Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams.

Storms is an engaging, committed performer whose love for the man he portrays shines through. He is at his best when delivering dry asides and arch observations, and there is wit and charm in abundance. The staging is somewhat too static, and some moments lack intention, but there is no denying his appeal and command of the space.

Tennessee Rising is thoroughly entertaining as well as an education about a playwright who, in many ways, became his own most iconic character. This little-examined period of Williams’ life exposes so many of the autobiographical aspects that are woven into his work, Storms has done the world a real service by bringing this show to light.

By Deborah Klayman

Jacob Storms’ Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams plays at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh until 27th August 2023.

Leave a Reply

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: