THE LIVING ROOM
by Graham Greene.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 30 March 2013.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS:0207 287 2875.
Review: William Russell 14 March.
Such goings on in Greeneland ’53.
Graham Greene enjoyed massive commercial success in 1953 with this first play, described by Kenneth Tynan as the best first play of its generation. It ran for over two years, starring Dorothy Tutin and Eric Portman. This strongly-cast revival, the first for 60 years, gives an opportunity to weigh-up the case for and against.
Rose, 20, a sweet, naïve Catholic girl, has embarked on an affair with a middle-aged married lecturer, executor of her mother’s estate, at her mother’s funeral. He has brought her to live with her elderly uncle, a failed priest, and two batty aunts who use the day nursery of their large house as their sitting room, having shut up every other room in which someone has died.
The day nursery, full of furniture and old toys, is the living room of the title. Greene deploys the arguments about Catholic guilt and sin which feature in all his work through the priest, played effectively by Christopher Timothy. No Rose today would be as innocent and guileless as this one, beautifully played by Tuppence Middleton in her stage debut.
The play creaks badly, but when the wife, Emma Davies powerfully conveying the anguish of someone married to a serial betrayer, turns up, things take flight. As the aunts, one terrified of dying, the other a Catholic hysteric, Carole Blakiston and Diane Fletcher could not be bettered (today Social Services would have stepped in long ago). As the lover Christopher Villiers has the sleezy opportunism of a man who cannot keep his hands off his young mistress but cannot face-up to leaving his wife.
It is an interesting evening, but Greene’s ruminations on religion, sin and guilt are probably better explored in his novels, and the production is not helped by the worst-designed set ever to grace this tiny theatre’s small stage: so cramped and stuffed with junk that the cast repeatedly fall over the furniture, and one another. There is no room to swing a cat, let alone wheel a wheelchair.
On the plus side Jermyn Street has new, comfortable seats. Other grander establishments please copy.
Mary: Abigail Toghill.
Rose Pemberton: Tuppence Middleton.
Michael Dennis: Christopher Villiers.
Teresa Browne: Caroline Blakiston.
Helen Browne: Diane Fletcher.
Father James Browne: Christopher Timothy.
Mrs Dennis: Emma Davies.
Director: Tom Littler.
Designer: Cherry Truluck.
Lighting: Tim Bray.
Sound: George Dennis.
Costume: Emily Stuart.
Assistant director: Imogen Watson.