The Deep Blue Sea by by Terence Rattigan: National Theatre at Home online until 16th July 2020. *** Mark Courtice

The Deep Blue Sea

by Terence Rattigan

National Theatre at Home from 7pm 9 July until 16 July 2020

Running Time: 2 hours 5 mins with a short interval

BBFC rating for cinemas: 15


Viewing platform

Review Mark Courtice 9th July 2020

Rattigan was variously an establishment figure (he was knighted), the creator of the  well-made play (he wrote for an imaginary audience member he called “Aunt Edna”), and a genius who used the conventions to explore the transgressive and different (he was a homosexual in a time when that was illegal). Now theatre is more explicit it’s difficult to know how to handle the emotionally restrained world he created.

Hester Collyer has ended up in a cheap flat, living with a man she calls her husband, a louche and emotionally damaged ex-pilot (Tom Burke’s Freddie is excellent). She is a slave to her passion, but knows that there is no hope in this relationship and despite the earnest desire of the decent but conventional judge that she has not yet divorced to take her back, none in that one either.  Helen McCrory’s performance is the heart of this production, a wonderful cocktail of loss, love, and desolation. From the very beginning as she lies in a gas filled room, she careers through a maelstrom of emotion that works well as counterpoint to the buttoned up world she lives in.

There’s a busybody landlady, and a couple of plot-driving coincidences – not so much a well-made play as clunky old fashioned stuff. But there’s a neat symmetry as Freddie plans to return to his job as a test pilot, despite being a drunk, with the same sort of cold desperation as Hester turns the gas on.

Carrie Cracknell’s production makes heavy weather of this, the huge dark set that surrounds the gloomy flat is fitfully lit with great expanses of darkness that are difficult to make sense of at home. There are variable performances -some of the 1940s slang reduces some of the cast to parroting rather than understanding how it works.


Mrs Elton    Marion Bailey

Philip Welch    Hubert Burton

Ann Welch    Yolanda Kettle

Hester Collyer    Helen McCrory

Mr Miller     Nick Fletcher

Freddie Page     Tom Burke

Jackie Jackson     Adetomiwa Edun

William Collyer    Peter Sullivan


James Alper, Katy Brittain, Elsie Fallon, Nick Figgis, Andrew Lewis, Siân Polhill-Thomas


Creative Team

Director    Carrie Cracknell

Designer   Tom Schutt

Lighting Designer    Guy Hoare

Music    Stuart Earl

Movement Director     Polly Bennett

Sound Designer     Peter Rice

Fight Director    Kate Waters


Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

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