Show: In Praise of Love
Venue: No venue information available
Credits: Terrance Rattigan
Performance Date: 05/05/2017
In Praise of Love
Paul Johnson | 14 May 2017 21:09pm
The theatrical masterpieces of Terence Rattigan, one of England’s most popular mid-Twentieth Century dramatists, remain today a fertile source of revivals on both the amateur and professional stages. In Praise of Love, written in 1973, just four years before Rattigan’s untimely death at the age of 66, is perhaps one of the lesser known, but readily bears comparison with the best.
When the play was first seen in London the Sunday Times critic described it as “the most piercing exposition of love under great stress that I have ever seen on stage.” Few who were fortunate enough to have seen Beckenham Theatre Centre’s superb production last week would disagree.
At one point Rattigan gives his central character a speech in which he describes the ‘English vice’ as “our refusal to admit to our emotions,” and so identifies the underlying theme of the piece. Here Fleur Buckley’s sensitive direction of a talented cast moved seamlessly from sharp humour to tense drama, as layers of pretence were peeled away from each character to reveal enormous depths of concealed love and pain.
Mike Savill was magnificent in the role of Sebastion Crutwell, a formidable, hard-drinking literary critic with Marxist sympathies who is by turn witty, bullying, egocentric and, at times, brutal to his wife and son, but who at the close of the play affectingly manages at last to reveal his true feelings.
As his courageous wife, Lydia, who loves her husband so deeply that she bravely conceals from him the fact that she is suffering from a terminal illness, Sue Williams, wisely avoiding any indication of her Eastern European origins, delivers a superbly crafted, powerful characterisation of great emotional depth.
In the difficult role of Mark Walter, the American novelist who is both friend to Cruttwell and in love with Lydia, and in whom both husband and wife confide, Jonathan Evans conveys the character’s conflicting emotions as much non-verbally as through the dialogue and contributes tellingly to the increasingly emotional atmosphere.
Completing the cast is the Crutwells’ estranged son Joey, an aspiring writer who is in rebellion against his domineering father and who finally finds the courage to challenge him. Simon Bigg, a young man of as yet limited experience, making his debut at this theatre, deals outstandingly with the challenge of this demanding role and makes a memorable impression in scenes with each of the other three.
The dramatic impact of the performance was greatly aided by Colin Napthine’s completely realistic and evocative set. An entire wall was appropriately devoted to bookshelves, stocked with actual, not simulated, volumes and the design cleverly incorporated a second level, contributing significantly to the director’s unobtrusive grouping and movement of the characters.
This riveting play makes particular demands on confident interaction between the players. Under Fleur Buckley’s creative direction the cast demonstrated a high degree of mutual trust and support in a truly ensemble performance which was highly entertaining as well as thought-provoking. Rattigan would surely have approved this interpretation of his work.
The play was Beckenham’s entry into the Kent Drama Association’s annual competitive play festival, contested by seventeen amateur companies throughout the county, and was very favourably reviewed by the adjudicator, Paul Doust. The festival results will be announced on 24th June.
- : admin
- : 05/05/2017