by Emlyn Williams.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Street SW1E 5JA To 13 December 2014.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 November.
Accolades all round.
Late Victorian and the Edwardian audiences lapped-up society dramas about ‘the woman with a past’ – The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, The Second Mrs Tanqueray, Lady Windermere’s Fan – revealing social and sexual secrets about a respectable lady’s earlier life.
A half-century later Emlyn Williams’ Accolade showed a man with a past. Successful novelist Will Trenting is about to be knighted when an unsuccessful novelist appears, from Rotherhithe, in a grubby raincoat with photos of naked bodies at a party Trenting organised. Which was as far as audience shock and sympathy would reach in 1950, when only a few might have read-in Trenting’s participation in the orgy, and the sex of the youngster in the photos.
For Williams was bisexual and there’s an autobiographical anxiety, which the repressed decade later displayed in Terence Rattigan’s dramas; anxiety still present in Noel Coward’s 1966 A Song at Twilight.
Just one glory of Blanche McIntyre’s revival (which first ended the play’s neglect at the Finborough Theatre in 2011) lies in capturing the sense of the time without being imprisoned by it. There’s also James Cotterill’s set, a wall of book-shelves disrupted whenever doors open to admit real-life as Williams moves darkly (his dark view of life runs through his works) from social set-up through blackmail plot to the final exposition of moral considerations as Trenting is brought, skilfully in Alexander Hanson’s performance with its subtle suggestions of an unruly aspect within social smoothness, through evasions and conflict to self-awareness.
The world around is filled-in by Jay Taylor and Olivia Darnley as morally unconcerned associates from old days, Jay Villiers and Claire Cox, reacting variously as part of respectable society, and Daniel Crossley, quietly solid as the loyal servant typical of the period. And – movingly – Abigail Cruttenden as the wife facing unexpected pressures, plus Sam Clemmett as the teenage son moving out of a sheltered childhood.
As the agent of disruption, Bruce Alexander brings a contrastingly mannered self-consciousness in the darker Daker, establishing his resentment as father and failed author (he clutches Tenting’ finely-bound works closely like his baby) and lonely place in the action.
Will Trenting: Alexander Hanson.
Albert: Daniel Crossley.
Rona Trenting: Abigail Cruttenden.
Thane Lampeter: Jay Villiers.
Marian Tillyard: Claire Cox.
Ian Trenting: Sam Clemmett.
Harold: Jay Taylor.
Phyllis: Olivia Darnley.
Daker: Bruce Alexander.
Director: Blanche Mcintyre.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Hair/Make-up: Betty Marini.