SOUTH DOWNS and THE BROWNING VERSION
by David Hare by Terence Rattigan.
Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 8 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 21, 24, 27, 29 Sept, 1, 5, 8 Oct 2.30pm. also Sun 25 Sept 3pm.
no performance 19, 26 Sept.
Audio-described 24 Sept, 25 Sept 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 September.
A positive report for the Minerva’s autumn term.
To take the later play first (as in Chichester’s production), David Hare’s new South Downs was commissioned to accompany Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version. Rather than Browning, its literary centre is Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism, and interpretations of a couplet to fit the English master’s conservative view or the intelligent radicalism of a pupil who’s reached public school from a semi-detached background.
It’s a socially wider view than Rattigan’s in his public-school one-acter, and set in 1962 – the final end of the fifties when the new decade still had to take proper hold; Profumo, Macmillan’s resignation and Bealtemania were just around the corner. The play refers to Mr Wilson intending to change things; as Harold Wilson did on becoming Labour Prime Minister in 1964.
Charismatic prefect Duffield puts the coming world on the school’s debating agenda. His view are influenced by his mother – another rather idealised Hare female, and an actress (even if it’s in a struggling West End play).
But Hare sketches in, lightly, with just enough shade, the public-school background, while director Jeremy Herrin produces yet more confident, effortless-seeming performances all round. Jonathan Bailey’s Duffield catches the metamorphosis from schoolboy to adult, with fine work from new young actors, like Alex Lawther, elusive and quietly insistent as the semi-detached scholarship boy with his piping-voiced intellect.
Angus Jackson’s Rattigan revival is strong, and only not-quite-vintage because of slightly simplified characterisation, especially among the more briefly-seen people.
But Liam Morton’s Taplow has a fine decorum, his motivation for the Browning gift remaining ambiguous. And Nicholas Farrell’s Crocker-Harris, hit by illness, lovelessness, tight-lipped duty and lack of charisma, is masterly in all ways: features strained by years of concealing awareness of failure, voice hiding more than it expresses, and intense moments of silence where unexpressed thoughts are transparent and moving.
Rev Eric Dewley: Nicholas Farrell.
John Blakemore: Alex Lawther.
Jeremy Duffield: Jonathan Bailey.
Basil Spear: Andrew Woodall.
Colin Jenkins: Bradley Hall.
Tommy Gunter: Jack Elliott.
Roger Sprule: Liam Morton.
Belinda Duffield: Anna Chancellor.
Sheila Blakemore (voice): Stella Gonet.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
The Browning Version:
John Taplow: Liam Morton.
Frank Hunter: Mark Umbers.
Millie-Crocker-Harris: Anna Chancellor.
Andrew Crocker-Harris: Nicholas Farrell.
Dr Frobisher: Andrew Woodall.
Peter Gilbert: Rob Heaps.
Mrs Gilbert: Amanda Fairbank-Hynes.
Director: Angus Jackson(for both plays):
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Bruno Poet.
Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Music: Paul Englishby.
Voice/Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Tim Hoare.