Posts Tagged ‘Dan Rebellato’

Whilst other students were doing what students do – getting pissed and getting laid (assuming it was the same in 1934) – the undergraduate Terence Rattigan, with help from his friend Philip Heimann, was writing his first play. In no time at all, it was causing controversy in the West End & on Broadway and Rattigan had given up his studies. It’s taken 80 years for it to get its second London outing, thanks to the enterprising and indispensable Primavera Productions.

Rattigan was writing from experience, setting his play in college lodgings with four student sharers. Tony is to play the leading role in the University drama society production of Anthony & Cleopatra and professional actress Margot has been invited to play alongside him (apparently this was not unusual at Oxford, with people like Peggy Ashcroft returning to OUDS). They fall in love, despite the fact she’s twice his age, and Tony’s ex Joan moves on to his friend David (before ending up with another friend, Bertie!). There is a thinly veiled suggestion that Tony & David are more than friends and the play primarily explores this unorthodox love triangle.

The first half was a bit light, dull and insubstantial for me (and not ‘uproariously funny’ as it has been billed) and if you didn’t know who wrote it, you might guess Noel Coward, but it transformed itself after the interval and became a much better play and very obviously Rattigan. The three short acts of this second half really were brilliant and it was fascinating to see the first work of this 20th century master.

Tom Littler has given it a fine production, and assembled an excellent cast. Neil Irish makes great use of the tiny Jermyn Street stage (floor), creating an evocative period living room which transforms effectively to a pub bedroom for one of the five acts. Caroline Langrishe is a superb Margot, drawn to the younger man and jealous of his other relationship. Philip Labey plays ice cold, somewhat manipulative David brilliantly and Gavin Fowler comes into his own in the second half when his role becomes more complex. It also features the impressive professional stage debut of Molly Hanson, the daughter of Alexander Hanson & Samantha Bond, as Joan.

At the interval I thought it was a mere collectors piece, but by the end I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to see the beginnings of Rattigan’s great and unique talent. The programme-script has an excellent essay by Dan Rebellato, who has pieced together this performing edition from the six versions extant, which added much to the experience. Gold stars to him, Primavera and Jermyn Street Theatre, whose new seating has greatly improved the comfort and sight-lines.


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