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Posts Tagged ‘Pandora Colin’

The first word that popped into my head at the close of this play was ‘beautiful’. It was beautiful to look at with its simple evocation of the British countryside. It was beautifully written, closing somewhat appropriately with one of its subject’s poems. The performances were beautifully judged characterisations of real people. It also mentions beautiful Tooting!

Nick Dear’s play tells the story of the relationship between British poet Edward Thomas and American poet Robert Frost. Frost comes to Britain for just three years from 1912 to 1915. He makes his name here and returns to the US more famous that when he left. Thomas reviews Frost and they become friends, enjoying long conversational walks in the countryside. Frost encourages Thomas to write poetry, is in awe of his original prose style and champions him both here and back in the US. Their friendship had a depth and intensity that is extraordinary given they only spent time with one another for two years.

Thomas has a strange relationship with his brittle and passionate wife Helen. When he’s with Frost, he treats her with disdain. She is resentful of his bond with Frost and suspicious of his close relationship with family friend Eleanor Farjeon, who seems obsessed with both Thomas and Frost. Yet they are clearly in love. His relationship with his conventional Welsh father is strained when he quits the Civil Service but repaired when he enlists as an army officer. Less than two years after he enlists and Frost has returned to the US he is killed in action. His real success as a poet under his own name is posthumous.

The play is not chronological, including flash forwards the forties and fifties when Frost returns to the UK. These are fascinating people living at a fascinating time, which Dear has captured perfectly. The depth of characterisation is extraordinary and he doesn’t waste a moment. Richard Eyre’s direction is faultless and Bob Crowley’s design is just a stage of earth with opaque projections and lighting on the brick wall behind. It’s simple but its beautiful. It has been very rewarding to watch the development of both Hattie Morahan and Pip Carter in recent years and here they give perfectly judged performances as Edward and Helen. Shaun Dooley has great presence as Frost and Pandora Colin is a delight as Eleanor.

I loved everything about this play and it really doesn’t matter if you know nothing about these people or indeed poetry; the play stands alone as a captivating biographical drama. Unmissable.

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With The White Guard, The Habit of Art and this all running in rep. in the Lyttleton at the same time, you’d be forgiven for moving in. I will be showering this ‘lost’ Terence Rattigan play with even more superlatives than I did the other two; it will go down in the NT’s history as one of its great achievements.

Soon after it begins, you think you’re at a Noel Coward play; it doesn’t seem like Rattigan at all. It isn’t until the second act when the depth and complexity comes through. What at first seems to be a satire on the decadent lives of the pre-war upper middle classes soon becomes a fascinating study of relationships and love. Quite why it is rarely produced is beyond me; I love Rattigan’s plays and this is without doubt the best of the seven I’ve seen.

Thea Sharrock’s production is masterly; so subtle and nuanced, every word, expression and movement has meaning. Hildegard Bechtler’s Drawing Room set is so realistic it’s like time travelling back 70 years. It has one of the best acting company’s put together at the National; many of them new to the NT. Adrian Scarborough moves from court jester to knowing friend and confidante (just about the only emotionally intelligent character in the play) seamlessly. Nancy Carroll is so good as the superficial socialite when she break’s down its devastating. Benedict Cumberbatch’s repression is so real you jump when he explodes. In the supporting company, Pandora Colin is a superbly comic party animal and Jenny Galloway a wonderfully pessimistic secretary.

This is such a satisfying theatrical experience – great play, terrific performances, faultless direction & design – you’d be completely bonkers to miss it.

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