Posts Tagged ‘Simon Dutton’

Playwright Mike Poulton, hot on the heels of his hugely successful stage adaptations of Wolf Hall & Bring up the Bodies, has written a brilliant new play about Terence Rattigan’s ex-lover, with Rattigan as a character, that feels like it could be written by Rattigan himself (after the abolition of censorship, if he came out!). The incident at the core of the play was in fact the source of his classic The Deep Blue Sea, which I am seeing again in a couple of weeks, after another Rattigan play this week. I love it when things coincide like this.

It starts with Kenny Morgan’s attempted suicide, foiled by a neighbour smelling gas. The landlady and another neighbour, a (struck off) doctor, tend to him. His lover is away, so the neighbour calls the first number in his phone book – Rattigan. We learn that Kenny was his en suite lover for ten years, but left to live with Alec who is the age Kenny was when he met Rattigan. Alec is a promiscuous bi-sexual who is clearly using Kenny and is the primary reason for his unhappiness. As the play unfolds, we learn that it wasn’t much happier at Rattigan’s, being hidden away and brought out when needed. He flip flops between staying with Alec or returning to Terry as the play continues. 

It’s such a good cast, with Paul Keating a revelation as Kenny; it’s rare to see an actor invest so much emotional energy into a role. I thought Simon Dutton was spot on with his characterisation of Rattigan; a fine performance. Alec is a somewhat unsympathetic character which Pierro Niel-Mee played extremely well. There is a lovely cameo from Marlene Sidaway as landlady Mrs Simpson, nosy and more than a bit bigoted. Lowenna Melrose as Alec’s ‘friend’, Matthew Bulgo as the neighbour and George Irving as the ‘doctor’ Ritter make up this fine cast. It’s sensitively staged by Lucy Bailey with a suitably seedy period design by Robert Innes-Hopkins.

Fascinating play. Fine writing. Excellent staging. Terrific performances. What more can you ask for? Bring on the next two Rattigan’s……

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Simon Armitage has cleverly adapted Homer’s Odyssey with a modern setting. In the original, it’s ten years since the fall of Troy and Odysseus hasn’t returned to Ithaca. His palace where wife Penelope and son Telemachus wait has ben overrun by a rowdy mob. Unbeknown to them, he is having a nightmare journey involving imprisonment, attack by a Cyclops, sirens and storms.

In Armitage’s version, Odysseus is cabinet minister Smith in a government about to fight an election. The PM (Zeus) sends him to Istanbul to watch England play Turkey in a World Cup qualifier, despite his protestations that he’ll miss his son Magnus’ (Telemachus) 18th. He gets caught up in a post-match bar room brawl trying to stop England fans attack a Muslim girl but photographed looking as if he’s the attacker. Running away, his journey home (Ithaca) begins and it of course mirrors the journey of Odysseus. Back in the UK, his political colleagues are preparing to disown him and his wife (Penelope) to sell her story to the highest bidding paparazzi (rowdy mob!) which she has invited into her home. During this, Magnus is reading the book he has been for his birthday by the PM’s aide – The Odyssey.

It’s all very clever and it’s also very funny, but I failed to see the point of the adaptation. It starts well, but as it progresses it does seem ever more contrived, implausible and preposterous. That said, it does entertain and you can’t help but admire it. Colin Tierney is excellent as Smith / Odysseus and Simon Dutton is perfect as the PM. I really liked Polly Frame as the PM’s aide / daughter and there’s good support from the other eight actors. It’s simply staged by Nick Bagnall who uses the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse well, though it doesn’t need this space (and has played other very different ones on tour).

An inventive and entertaining evening, but not an essential one.

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