by Nicholas Wright.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 3 September 2011.
2.15pm 2, 4, 12, 20 Aug, 3 Sept.
7.30pm 11, 16, 24, 26 Aug.
Audio-described 26 Aug, 3 Sept.
BSL 20 Aug.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 July.
Unlike one of its subjects, this doesn’t leap off the stage.
As with actors, there are star playwrights. And, as with actors, there are playwrights whose work may not spiral into dazzling popularity, but who consistently provide intelligent, well-crafted work that treads its own path sure-footedly, whatever interesting direction it take.
Nicholas Wright is one of this rare kind. His fine dramas include Vincent in Brixton, a supreme modern example of nuanced, actor-friendly roles developed over four lengthy scenes that have their own steady dramatic pulse.
So it’s no pleasure to find that, for once, he’s stumbled. What’s tripped him up is a TV script (never produced) written late in life by centenary-man Terence Rattigan. There’s a hint of the trouble in the script Wright has built around this tele-play, where Rattigan’s asked why he’s been writing some terrible film-work.
One look at his hotel suite, in Mike Britton’s elegant design, suggests a practical reason. But, apart from adaptations of his stage plays, Rattigan never took to film. And the indications of his montage ideas for this screenplay about the Russian ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev and his young star dances Nijinsky don’t inspire confidence in the unproduced piece.
Wright makes this a dissection of Rattigan’s relation with English reserve and fear of emotions. It’s something that echoes with a line from this play’s co-habitee in the Chichester season, The Deep Blue Sea. In that Rattigan changed the gay relationship to a heterosexual one. Instead of hiding behind a woman’s skirts in his Nijinsky, he codified his sexuality into Diaghilev and his fury when his beloved Nijinsky married.
This was 1974, eight years after Noel Coward’s now blatant-seeming self-exposure of his sexuality in A Song at Twilight had actually been camouflaged as a portrait of the recently dead Somerset Maugham. But most important is the tension between a desire to reveal in an increasingly tolerant age, and to conceal, the instinct of his generation.
Despite Malcolm Sinclair’s thoughtful, distinguished performance as Rattigan, the sense of medicine or nerve-induced delirium and the contrast between Wright’s dialogue and the visual focus of Rattigan’s Nijinsky as played here makes for a mixed, even muddled, evening.
Romola Nijinsky as a young woman: Faye Castelow.
A Likely Lad: Alwyn Davies-Ebsworth.
Georges Astruc/Otto Kahn/Professor Bleuler: Pip Donaghy.
Vaslav Nijinsky/Donald: Joseph Drake.
Eleanora Nijinsky/Tamara Karsavina: Emma Harris.
Nicolai Legat/Baron de Gunzberg/Dr Frenkel: John Hopkins.
Sergei Diaghilev/Cedric Messina: Jonathan Hyde.
Vaslav Nijinsky aged 9: Jude Loseby.
Leon Bakst/Ship’s Purser/Times Reporter/Leonid Massine: Louis Maskell.
The Chosen Maiden/Anna: Ellie Robertson.
Terence Rattigan: Malcolm Sinclair.
Romola Nijinsky/Vera Rattigan/Emilia Markus: Susan Tracy.
Ballet School Examiner/Sergei Grigoriev/Adolph Bolm: Ewan Wardrop.
Ballet School Candidates: Jack Burt, Joe Adams, Louis Cassidy-Rice, Henry Cox, Fred Davis, Jay Dix, Joseph Dunsford, Luc Gibbons, Jack Harris, Samuel Hawkins, Kyran Kyte, Morgan, Mason-Smith, Leonardo Ruggieri, Bradley Trevethan, Edward Waller, Toby Wardle.
Director: Philip Franks.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: John Leonard.
Choreographer: Quinny Sacks.
Dialect coach: Tim Charrington.
Assistant director: Jon Pashley.