LOVE IN IDLENESS
by Terence Rattigan.
The Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, LondonSE1 1RU to 29 April 2017.
Mon – Sat 8pm. Mat Sat & Wed 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 45 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7378 1713.
Review: William Russell 21 March
A second coming worth waiting for
This is the Rattigan play everyone forgot. In 1944 he wrote a play called Less Than Kind, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, then the leading couple of American theatre, persuaded him to modify it to suit their skills and remove some of the political comment. Retitled Love in Idleness it was a success in the West End and on Broadway then vanished. Rattigan was always sorry it happened. This version is in one sense a new play as Trevor Nunn taken both texts to create a version which include some of the lost political comment.
Eve Best is Olive Brown, widow of a dentist in Barnes, mistress to Sir John Fletcher Cabinet minister and millionaire played by Anthony Head, as her lover. He has not got round to divorcing his wife and she has not got round to telling her evacuee son who has been in Canada for several years and is still in her mind her baby. But babies grow up.
Best gives a superb performance as a woman who can never face up to reality, is enjoying her new status, and cannot explain to Michael, her 17 years and 11 months old “baby boy”, who turns up out of the blue why she is living in such style. When he finds out what has happened he is horrified. Michael is very left wing, Sir John and all he stands for is anathema, so he duly sets out to destroy the relationship. He behaves like Hamlet, as Sir John who does not much like him in return, realises.
Nunn has crafted a splendid comedy which, like all good comedies, is all about human emotions and relations, The political elements are a bit tricky and it is not easy to decide whose side Rattigan is on – those who want a brave new world or who, like Sir John, expect it be like the old one cleaned up a bit.
Head and Best deliver performances to treasure. Edward Bluemel as Michael is terrific as a self centred passionate affair breaker whose politics are not quite as ingrained as they seem. while Helen George as Sir John’s tarty wife Diana – she married him for his money manages to show that she also has a nice side. The play is, as one would expect from Rattigan, immaculate constructed and Nunn, a director, known for shows that take their has come up with one where time flies.
Not a lost masterpiece, it is a welcome rediscovery, and Best is best of all in a play which deserves a longer run than this.
Olivia Brown: Eve Best.
Polton: Nicola Sloane.
Miss Dell: Vivienne Rochester.
Sir John Fletcher: Anthony Head.
Michael Brown: Edward Bluemel.
Diana Fletcher: Helen George.
Miss Wentworth: Nicola Sloane.
Director: Trevor Nunn.
Design: Stephen Brimson Lewis.
Lighting Design: Paul Pynt.
Sound Design: Gregory Clarke.
Projection Design: Duncan McLean.