IN PRAISE OF LOVE
by Terence Rattigan.
Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 23 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 19 April.
BSL Signed 20 April.
Post-show Discussion 12 April.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 April.
Production does praiseworthy play proud.
As Terence Rattigan’s centenary year continues there’ll doubtless be a lot of talk about emotional restraint. In this 1973 play, written as the playwright recovered ground lost during the Look Back in Anger revolution, he identifies his own, and the English middle-class, fear of expressing emotion.
Yet it’s a story of absolute, painful love, of generosity and self-sacrifice amid selfishness. Literary critic Sebastian has married Estonian Lydia to bring her safe to England; but she carries the inheritance of suffering and near death. Physical fitness saved her life under the Nazis. Now her experiences hit back.
Among the four fine performances, Geraldine Alexander’s Lydia is the vital centre. All three men love her – and she them – in some way, Sebastian as her husband, American Mark as friend and potential lover and Joey as her son. Alexander incorporates a lithe, girlish lightness into this experienced woman, makes her former athleticism credible and avoiding any mittel-Europe ponderousness.
Lydia has a joy as she folds herself onto the sofa or flits round the room, and a purposeful economy in her slight figure with short, economically-styled hair and vocal lightness. This is someone who can face death and remain full of life.
Richard Beecham’s carefully-balanced production contrasts her with literary-journalist husband Sebastian, as Jay Villiers lumbers around the room, self-obsessed, full of ready-made opinions. Rattigan doubtless enjoyed writing Sebastian’s armchair Marxist attitudinising, sympathising with American friend Mark, who never retaliates to Sebastian’s barbs about his million-dollar writing. Sean Power brings an easy manner and all the concern Sebastian doesn’t show for Lydia and Joey.
Who has his first play on TV. Mark comes round in formal dress to watch, Sebastian visits a woman friend and forgets it. Mark lies about its quality, Sebastian over-compensates with promises of organising reviews. It’s Sebastian in whom guilt and grief bring anger about the English inability to express emotion, something reflected in designer Naomi Dawson’s room, where shelves of books crowd out people, and by implication direct experience, and upon which even the curtain seems reticent about rising or falling – another apt detail in Beecham’s scrupulous, perfectly-played production.
Sebastian Cruttwell: Jay Villiers.
Lydia Cruttwell: Geraldine Alexander.
Mark Walters: Sean Power.
Joey Cruttwell: Gethin Anthony.
Director: Richard Beecham.
Designer/Costume: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting: Anna Watson.
Sound/Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Voice coach: Elspeth Morrison.
Fight director: Roger Bartlett.