Lion's View, such a unusual name for a hospital, although on second thoughts perhaps not seeing as its patients are thought to be lunatics, babblers, of a nervous disposition, mentally deranged. But then I don't know New Orleans, or even if this Garden District still exists, so perhaps it's not weird at all. Perhaps it's very much, or was at one time, in keeping with the area, or perhaps it's all fictional, and I, like a crackpot, have fallen for it, as I so often do for Tennessee's works. The playwright, not the American state, which I've come to mid-way in life.
Last Summer is
one of his stranger plays; a touch, some might say,
semi-autobiographical if you choose to draw comparisons to Catharine
(and yes, it is with a middle 'a') and his sister, Rose. I don't know
– writers use and write out theirs or others experiences, not
always truthfully but slanted, which, in my view, is more cathartic
than say talking in circles with a psychologist. Cut out the middle
man or woman and let the mind take its own journey. However, that
opinion in itself could be wrong. No, not wrong, just not the
accepted persuasion backed by experts.
don't know what the broadly-held sentiment might be by those in the
profession, other than treatment is still referred to as 'Therapy',
and that it does now include 'the Arts': those creative pursuits we
should do more of apparently, which makes perfect sense to me as one
so inclined but may not to others who aren't. But what we can say is
that times have moved on and people suffering mental health
difficulties, for however long, are treated with more sympathy today.
At least, I very much hope so, because although others will say
there's still a way to go, we have come a way. And if you don't
believe me, History! History! by which I mean: Research it!
digress. Sort of.
Sugar. Well, to be more precise, Dr Sugar, or if you prefer Dr
Cukrowicz, as though the play is far from a saccharin affair, he's
certainly the sweetener. The cube that makes the Polio vaccine
palatable. I don't know why I said that! for the play has nothing
whatsoever to do with Polio - see how the mind at times takes over –
although perhaps there is a tenuous connection for, after all, he
sweetens the bitterness the main players feel towards, sometimes each
other but more often, Catharine. None of them like her 'story', which
she continues to stick to in spite of her supposedly recuperating
stay at St Mary's, for differing but nonetheless deplorable reasons:
Aunt Violet fears it tarnishes the image of her late son, Sebastian,
and wants it cut out, right out of Catharine's brain, whereas Mrs
Holly and Catharine's brother, George, are more concerned that if
Catharine pursues this course the money they are due to come into
will be contested.
is a bitter pill and even more so if the circumstances of it are
grisly. Unsweetened, it's hard to swallow, particularly if it
confirms something unspeakable about another to persons within and
outside the family, or implicates the actions of others on their
behalf. Even the Doctor, in this instance, is unable to sugar-coat
it; in fact, he doesn't attempt to, he just wants to get to the
bottom of the mystery – the cause of this young woman's mental
instability - and when he does, he believes her, or at least believes
in the possibility that what she says could, in part if not all, be
truth scares and it threatens, as in it could be information that
could be used against you, that others don't want to hear and won't
unless they're forced to listen by a neutral protector. That's what I
like to think is meant by 'Lion's View', for if you disassociate it
from its hospital setting then those two words could be said to give
a different connotation, one that's not entirely unconnected but
which instead suggests an impartial guardian who helps to minimise,
if not heal, psychological scars.
Picture credit: Le Mal du Pays (Homesickness), 1940, Rene Magritte