THE DEEP BLUE SEA
by Terence Rattigan.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 3 September 2011.
2.15pm 11, 17, 24, 26, 31 Aug.
7.30pm 29 July, 1, 2, 4, 12, 17, 20, 23, 30, 31 Aug, 3 Sept.
Audio-described 29 July, 11 Aug.
BSL Signed 20 Aug 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 July.
Rattigan’s deeply-felt play impressively revived.
Despite his early reputation as a writer of comedies, there aren’t many laughs in Terence Rattigan’s 1951 drama. There probably shouldn’t be any, but a reference to being mentioned in the ‘News of the World’ produced an auditorium-wide eruption during Philip Franks’ revival – a fine one that trusts Rattigan’s writing and a largely excellent cast.
It’s one of the humble middle-class lodgers in Mrs Elton’s house who refers to the newspaper when another tenant, Hester Collyer has tried to gas herself. Hester is caught between two worlds, the established one she’s left and the reality-escaping hedonism of her lover Freddie Page. His problem is it’s 1951 not 1940 and neither age nor alcohol helps keep alive the glory days of a Battle of Britain pilot.
Amanda Root was once outstanding as the tormented young Nina, torn between a comfortable home life and the dangers of love, in an RSC Seagull. Now she brings equal intensity to an older woman cloaked in the English reserve that tormented Rattigan.
Every polite surface is intact, but raw nerve-ends can be seen underneath: in her quiet desperation with Freddie, the lover who rejects her, the calm statement to her callow young civil servant neighbour that she has no intention of keeping a promise she’s made, the reserve with the husband she cannot love but who wants her back.
Anthony Calf is emotionally vulnerable as Sir William, physically and verbally pleading with Hester. John Hopkins’ Freddie isn’t deliberately cruel; he’s lost any purpose in the new England: an angry, aging young man.
With good work from Pip Donaghy as the mystery medical man from Europe, who has the sureness of a determined survivor, and Faye Castelow as a woman who’s tripped into fearful and unfamiliar depths, it’s just a pity Chichester didn’t programme this for the Minerva Theatre.
The Festival Theatre is too large, making a small flat massive and still requiring some fussily unrealistic design at the side, while characters too often have to pronounce publically what would be better said in confidential quietness. Otherwise, it’s another plus for a lively Chichester season.
Philip Welch: Joseph Drake.
Mrs Elton: Susan Tracy.
Ann Welch: Faye Castelow.
Hester Collyer: Amanda Root.
Mr Miller: Pip Donaghy.
Sir William Collyer: Anthony Calf.
Freddie Page: John Hopkins.
Jackie Jackson: Ewan Wardrop.
Director: Philip Franks.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: John Leonard.
Dialect coach: Tim Charrington.
Assistant director: Jon Pashley.