The home life of TS Eliot revealed at Kenilworth theatre

Tom and Viv, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, on until Saturday November 19. Box office 856548.

JULIE Godfrey showed true English unflappability when the wheel came of a tea trolley towards the end of Monday night’s performance of Tom and Viv.

With perfect poise Julie, who plays Vivienne Haigh-Wood – the wife of Nobel prize-winning poet TS Eliot – instantly adapts the script to include: “I can’t offer you tea...”

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It’s a lighter moment in a play that doesn’t have too many laughs, it has to be said.

However, author Michael Hastings does offer us a real insight into the turbulent home life of the man who was to write The Waste Land and The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

The real-life Eliot doesn’t come out of this history all that well, as his tortured wife Viv inspires him on many occasions while regularly going mentally out of control on many others.

There are questions about the medication she was receiving from no less a person than the Queen’s own physician, and which was perhaps the accepted treatment at the time.

Because the action starts in 1915 and continues for the next 32 years, the play is inevitably episodic with constant slight scene changes which left me a bit cold.

Julie Godfrey’s performance was striking and Ann Brooks, who played her mother, had a real presence. I was slightly less convinced by Dave Crossfield in the role of Tom, although his timing was good and he did exude the diffidence I expected of the repressed poet.

Graham Underhill, who played Viv’s brother Maurice, forget a few lines but introduced some much-needed humour by apparently modelling his character on Melchett in Black Adder.

Verdict: Bleak but interesting.

Barbara Goulden