The Skin Game by Tony Cox. A rehearsed reading Jermyn Street Theatre on You Tube. 4****. William Russell

The rehearsed reading of this fascinating tale of how Merle Oberon, suffering from a skin comnplaint which had led to her being fired from a film, sought the aid of Archibald McIndoe, the plastic surgeon, and through him met Richard Hillary, a young pilot he was treating for the severe burns he suffered when his 603 Squadron plane was shot down. Oberon, who was married to Alexander Korda, had taken refuge in their suite at Claridges and doing her bit for the war invited the lad to tea.
Whether this is how it happened is anybody’s guess. The on line information says he met her in America when on a morale boosting tour after his injuries had been treated. But no matter, the fact is he did have an affair with her and then went on to have one with another older woman, Mary Booker, allegedly met through Oberon, an affair later revealed in a boom based on their letters by the man she later married. Hilary was young, impulsive, snobbish, sex mad and reckless, the women – Oberon was Eurasian, scared of that being known, pretended to be a Tasmanian, and Booker was simply the older woman swept off her feet by this damaged but irresistible boy. The performance are all good and in reality would be even better. These on line performances are no substitute for live theatre, but for the moment they will have to do/
A tale of passion, love, betrayal and recklessness the piece, directed by Jimmy Waters, suits four talking heads well. The art of this kind of broadcasting – the actors are all in their homes – has developed so that mostly you feel they really are confronting one another face to face – and the confrontations are sensational, chilling and deeply sad.

This is a world premier of the play so catch it while you can. On line until May 26. Donations are appreciated but all the information is on the site.
Merle Oberon – Skye Hallam
Richard Hillary – George Smale
Mary Booker – Rachel Pickup
Archibald McIndoe – Ian Hallard.
Director – Jimmy Waters.

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