by Terence Rattigan and Philip Heiman.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 22 November.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 7387 2873.
then Simpkins Lee Theatre Lady Margaret Hall Norham Gardens OX2 6QA
28-29 November 2014.
Fri 7.30pm; Sat 2pm & 7pm (Gala Performance).
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 October.
Rarity value to first step in a fine career.
It’s been instructive, though it happened coincidentally, to have seen Terence Rattigan’s (co-written) first play, from 1934, the night after Salisbury’s revival of his Separate Tables. They have much the same length, and number of scenes.
But whereas the Rattigan of 1954 shaped his material so two stories linked by setting and characters (a pre-Alan Ayckbourn trick) played off each other and, individually, unfolded steadily, with pre-shadowing of later revelations, the earlier work is a series of scenes in which every opportunity is taken for long conversations.
No character meets another without a full discussion of their feelings, and the opening of a door at a scene’s end becomes a fearful portent of another torrid conversation, unleavened much by humour or character development.
A group of undergraduates, of impeccable class and unconscious arrogance (the latter possibly not the authors’ conscious intention), are putting-on a play and, in the manner of the Oxford University Dramatic Society they are doubtless modelled upon, the all-male troupers invite professional women actors for the female roles, their unidentified university’s glory attracting even film-star Margot.
Who is also ‘the older woman’, glamorous but sensible enough to recognise male infatuation, while younger Joan goes with the sexual flow. Defeat abounds, as so often in Rattigan, not only in the fate of the most self-confident undergrad, but the way the dull and earnest one reveals his own arrogance when his dependability gets him the girl.
Tom Littler’s production for Primavera, regular seekers-out of theatre’s forgotten treasures, has to make sense of this early, joint work, which exists in several manuscript versions. There’s a confident sense of the period, and these characters’ irresponsibility – an aspect of human nature Rattigan was to develop further in his comedies.
With such a rarity by a significant author, it’s right to see as full a production as possible. But the script versions seem less in need of conflation than editing in its excesses. Yet the performances help considerably and the evening lights-up at moments of action, irony or genuine debate between equally strong voices, when the presence of a genuine playwright is evident.
Bertie: Adam Buchanan.
Philip: Alex Hope.
Tony: Gavin Fowler.
Joan: Molly Hanson.
David: Philip Labey.
Margot: Caroline Langrishe.
James/The Buller: Harry Gostelow.
Director: Tom Littler.
Designer: Neil Irish.
Lighting: Tim Mascal.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Costume: Emily Stuart.
Assistant director: Philippa Douglas.