Terrence Rattigan Centenary kicks off with this 'lost' play, the
original version of what, after considerable alteration, became 1944's
Love In Idleness, a star vehicle for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.
explains that Lunt convinced the playwright to soften the play's
political content somewhat and build up Lunt's role to match or even
dominate his wife's. But I think you would be hard-pressed to find
anything especially harsh or unbalanced about the version presented
here for the first time, which plays as a generally light and amiable
rom-com for grown-ups.
boy evacuated to
Canada in 1939 returns near the end of the war to discover his widowed
mother living with a rich industrialist and politician whom he
immediately detests. The parallels to Hamlet (which are actually what
inspired the play) are duly noted and joked about, with the boy's
knee-jerk socialism adding a political layer to his moral and Oedipal
focuses on the older pair, as they try to cope with the lad's
determination to destroy their relationship, and I won't be giving
anything away when I say that he is ultimately defeated - or co-opted -
through a satisfyingly ingenious stratagem.
thread is a bit problematic and the weakest part of the play.
Inevitably, there are some debates between the lad and the older man,
and although the boy's socialism is undoubtedly closer to Rattigan's
heart than the rich man's complacent Toryism, his obvious immaturity
and rote-learned dogmatism invariably make him seem ridiculous if not
is right that
the needs of comedy should trump the playwright's politics, but one
senses a tension in those scenes, and the author's wish that the boy
didn't have to sound so very much a fool.
the evening is carried comfortably by some excellent comic writing, the
warm relationship between the lovers, the surprisingly unhistrionic
appearances of the man's not-quite-divorced wife, and the play's
confident sense that even when things seem to be going most wrong they
will turn out all right.
Crowe has fun
playing a woman not born to be a social butterfly but taking to it
quite happily while still having a salt-of-the-earth core, and Michael
Simkins convinces us that even a Tory can be a nice guy.
Brown slips only in guiding David Osmond to be a little too
stiff-necked and priggish as the boy, making it very difficult to find
anything attractive about the character, while Caroline Head offers a
nice cameo as the amusedly looking-on almost-ex-wife.
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- Less Than Kind - Jermyn Street 2011