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[Perspectives] The girl who died in the fire

A warm light suffuses an empty stage surrounded by nine pianos. A young woman walks to the front and she is caught by a panic attack. Thus the new production of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, directed by Rebecca Frecknall at London’s Almeida Theatre, begins. Written in 1948, just after the success of A Streetcar Named Desire, the play, in its deceptive simplicity, touches some of the key themes of Williams’ early works: the marginalisation of women in the southern states of the USA, the dichotomy between spirituality and carnality, and the lability of mental health.