REVIEW Camino Real

  • Broadcast: January 27th, 1963
  • Character: Jacques Casanova


⇐ PETER as Jacques Casanova with Pamela Brown as ‘Camile’

In his own words, Tennessee Williams “Kicks over the traces” in ‘Camino Real’, the play he had favoured most of the 20 he’d written to date. Its appeal for him was in its “Unusual degree of freedom”.

Theatrically, he took liberties with convention and threw open his stages to a rich assortment of characters. They ranged from a mingling of literary real-life romantics – Casanova (PETER WYNGARDE), Marguerite Gautier (Pamela Brown), Byron (Philip Madoc) and Don Quixote (Donald Eccles) – to a wandering American prize fighter with a heart of complaint, Kilroy (Donald Madden), a gypsy (Patience Collier) and her daughter, Esmeralda (Diane Cilento), and many others. It was colourful, eloquent and stimulating.

There was, of course, no direct explanation, for this unlikely mixture of characters. “To go to Camino Real with the inflexible demands of a logician is unfair to both parties,” wrote the author in a foreword to the play published in the New York Times before its premier on Broadway in March, 1953. “But stay with it for the first three minutes,” said television director Henry Kaplan, “and you’ll be caught up and captivated by the goings on the plaza.”

The plaza is the central square of the town where the play is set, with its luxurious hotel on one side, and on the other, its “flop house” and “loan shark”. Outside the town is the Terra Incognito – a formidable arid wasteland – through which anyone wanting to leave must pass.

“But it requires innocence to get away and most people when they take stock of their life has taken its toll of innocence, has corrupted them, or that we’ve given way to excesses,” says PETER of the play. “So not many people are able to get away. Certainly not Casanova, the old rake, who led so an exhausting life that he’s too tired to even look for a way out. Instead he drinks.”

He also courts Marguerite Gautier – Camile. “And there’s no way out for her either – especially now that she’s taken to drugs,” said Pamela Brown. “She’s an aging voluptuary.”

.The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society:


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