In Praise of Love by Terence Rattigan. Jermyn Street theatre on line until 2 June 7.30pm. 4****. William Russell.

This is a well performed production of Terence Rattigan’s In Praise of Love, a play which examines the English reticence about expressing feelings, how behind a surface of doing just as one pleases lies a deep, emotional attachment, how son’s can find it difficult to relate to their fathers, and how people deal in very different ways with a terminal illness. It is oddly bang up to date at times and then very much of its own time – it was first staged in 1973.
There are problems with rehearsed readings and actors performing in their own homes, not least that the backgrounds patently belong to different rooms and – it is early days – nobody has quite solved how to interact between screens. Handing a glass from one person to another can work, but a couple embracing is really tricky and tends to result, or it did in this case, with an unnecessary close of of Issy Van Randwyk’s ’s bust. In addition when they kiss people sometimes head off in different directions, one going screen left, the other screen right. But that is something pract8ce will resolve. The play is the thing and this, one of Rattigan’s most interesting, was allegedly inspire by the way Rex Harrison dealt with the fatal illness of his wife Kay Kendall, who died from cancer, some years before – and also by the fact that Rattigan knew he had leukaemia. The Kendall/ Harrison link added a certain frisson at the time – Harrison starred in the Broadway production – but no longer. It stands on its own merits. It is wordy, a mixture of banter between the battling couple, watched by a best friend of both, and has its ups and downs. But when we learn of just what Lydia, an Estonian, endured and survived it becomes immensely movins.
Sebastian Crutwell (Jack Klaff) is an important critic on a Sunday newspaper, a man with one masterpiece novel to his name, but a career in journalism after wartime service in intelligence. He is a Communist, a man of moods and passions. In Berlin he met and married Lydia (Issy Van Randwyk), in order to give her a passport and escape from the city. They came to London, set up house, had a child – a son (an impressive Mackenzie Haynes), an aspiring playwright with a television drama about to be screened, who has politically gone the other way, and seem to have devised a way of life that suits them. Lydia knows she is ill. She does not know how ill. She thinks Sebastian does not know. But he does. Add a long time friend played by Andrew Francis, a hugely successful novelist of what one could call airport books, who loves Lydia and is deeply fond of Sebastian, and the drama unfolds. It is wordy, fascinating and ultimately very moving and the performances, given the circumstances, rise to the challenge of the play.
It is available at 7.30pm on You Tube and the Jermyn Street site. Donations are welcome on Go Fund Me.
Jack Klaff
Issy Van Randwyck
Andrew Francis
Mackenzie Haynes.

Director: Cat Robey.

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