THE ART OF CONCEALMENT
by Giles Cole.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1 6ST to 28 January 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 287 2875.
Review: William Russell 14 January.
OK play about a not really nice man.
There is no denying Terence Rattigan’s stature as one of the great British playwrights. This fascinating play shows the dying Rattigan (Alistair Findlay) on the eve of the 1977 premiere of his final hit, Cause Celebre, looking back on life and encountering his younger self (Dominic Tighe). It’s a decent theatrical ploy which works well, partly because the two actors are very good, partly because director Knight Mantell keeps things moving briskly as we go through the years.
The trouble is, as old Terence says, he may have been in his youth the prettiest playwright in London, but he was not a particularly nice man. Rattigan was a deeply repressed homosexual with a penchant for the wrong kind of boyfriend. Success, wealth, countless lovely homes, a knighthood, public adulation all left him cold as he agonised in his own private hell.
He may have been in the closet, and the love that dared not speak is name was a criminal offence. But the closet inside which he lived in splendid style was hardly tiny. In the days of impresario ‘Binkie’ Beaumont it encompassed pretty well all the West End plus a large chunk of the provinces, a closet inside which Noel, Ivor and John, among many, managed well enough.
The play still needs work; a little more information about the Rattigan family background would help, while the ending simply happens.
But it is beautifully played. The two leads aside, Christopher Morgan as Financial Times critic TC Worsley, who championed Rattigan when he was out of favour, Graham Pountney as a fictitious theatre queen and the caddish Rattigan père are terrific, while Judy Buxton makes what she can of Terence’s self-deceiving mother, Vera, and sparkles as Aunt Edna, the legendary figure he created to define his audience.
As the frightful young men in his life, Daniel Boyle, Charlie Hallway and Benedict Salter are pretty enough to explain why he fancied them. There is plenty of smart repartee and good acting, but Rattigan remains hard to feel sorry for. He had it all, and when he died he still had it all.
Kenneth Morgan: Daniel Boyle.
Vera/Aunt Edna: Judy Buxton.
Older Terry: Alistair Findlay.
Michael Franklin: Charlie Hallway.
Cuthbert Worsley: Christopher Morgan.
Tony Goldschmidt: Benedict Salter.
Frank/Freddie: Graham Pountney.
Younger Terry: Dominic Tighe.
Director: Knight Mantell.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Music: Matt Gray Music.