The Night of the Iguana, West End: First look at pictures of Clive Owen in the Tennessee Williams play

Clive Owen makes a full-throated return to the stage as the soused, lapsed priest in this rare revival of Tennessee Williams’s torrid tragicomedy. But the flawed, fascinating evening belongs to Lia Williams and Breaking Bad star Anna Gunn. James MacDonald’s three-hour production balances thunderstorms with moments of quiet intensity, and leavens Williams’s tendency towards overkill with wry humour.Banned from his church for “fornication and heresy” the Reverend T Lawrence Shannon is reduced to guiding female tour groups around Mexico in 1940, and preying on their youngest members. Threatened with a statutory rape charge over his latest conquest, he holes up at the clifftop fleapit hotel run by lascivious widow Maxine (Gunn) to have a breakdown. Buy tickets for The Night of the Iguana with GO LondonHis fellow guests include refined, straitened spinster Hannah Jelkes (Williams) and her ailing 97-year-old poet grandfather, plus a family of brash Germans hooting about Nazi victories. Ole’ Tennessee never gives you one example of humanity in extremis when he can give you four.Owen captures Shannon’s exasperating passion and ruined charm, but falls short of his full desperation and dissipation. He’s too damned handsome and healthy, for one thing. Shannon constantly complains of fever but the person who really seems to burn is Hannah. This genteel southern belle is all eyes in a face winnowed by care, lit from within by determination and quiet pride. In the lengthy passage of second act truth-telling with Owen, Williams holds the theatre spellbound.Gunn is magnificently un-vain as the blousily unbuttoned Maxine, and there are lovely supporting performances from Julian Glover as the grandpa and Finty Williams as one of Shannon’s furious tourists. Macdonald’s direction is deft – even the tethered iguana doesn’t seem too heavy a metaphor – although Rae Smith’s looming cliff set is unnecessarily cluttered and oppressive.This is only the second major London staging of this middle-rank Williams play since 1992 but its core message – that kindness and dignity matter, even to lost souls – feels pretty refreshing right now.Until Sept 28

Clive Owen is back in the West End for the first time in 18 years.

He’s starring in Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana alongside Lia Williams, Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn and Julian Glover and now the first pictures of the production have been released.

James Macdonald directs the play at the Noël Coward Theatre, which opens on Tuesday. It is set on a hotel veranda where a group of lost souls meet and debate before the arrival of a rainstorm.

Owen was last on the West End stage when he starred in Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg with Victoria Hamilton in 2001. His best known stage role is perhaps Dan in Patrick Marber’s Closer at the National Theatre, a part that he reprised in the film version alongside Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Julia Roberts. He was the only original cast member to do so.

Co-star Williams was highly praised for her lead in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and shortlisted for the Best Actress Evening Standard Theatre Award, while Gunn won two Emmys for her role as Skyler White in Breaking Bad and makes her West End debut with The Night of the Iguana.

The cast is completed by Alasdair Baker, Timothy Blore, Emma Canning, Karin Carlson, Madeleine Day, Ian Drysdale, Mufrida Hayes, Andrew McDonald, Manuel Pacific, Faz Singhateh, Finty Williams, Penelope Woodman and David Young.

Tony and Olivier Award-winner Rae Smith is designing the production, with lighting from Neil Austin and sound from Max Pappenheim.

The Night of the Iguana runs from July 16-September 28 at the Noël Coward Theatre.

Buy tickets for The Night of the Iguana with GO London