Friday, 2 September 2016

Theatre 2016: Review Twenty-Five

The Deep Blue Sea, Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre, London. August 2016.

This was a play we were lucky to get seats at, and typically the day after I grabbed three together it was announced that there would be a National Theatre Live performance - the very next day to our visit.  However live theatre is preferable and it was nice for Rebecca and I to meet up with the Upstart Wren.

I have a soft spot for Rattigan - I loved Flare Path when Mr Norfolkbookworm and I saw it back in 2011 and I've also enjoyed films penned by Rattigan or adapted from his plays - and so I was happy to go to see this.  I'm not sure what drew my companions to this one - reviews and the cast I think.

In not booking until late we did have seats right at the back of the Lyttleton theatre and for the first half I felt very distant from the action, however by the end this distance worked and it was as if we were watching the play through the deep blue sea.

Like Flare Path this is a play with very little plot as such but is all about emotion - on the surface and repressed and it grew on me very cleverly. At the interval I thought that the recent film was better viewing but I was drawn deeper and deeper in and by the end I was cheering for Hester.

In many ways this is a very modern play, Hester, ultimately, takes a very brave line and goes her own way. She takes neither of the 'easy' ways out that are on offer to her. The men in the play are less stereotypical than you might expect for the late 1940s and early 1950s and there is just a prescient hint of the relaxation of society that started just a few years later.

On reading around the subject, and the wonderfully detailed programme, it becomes clear that this in someways is an incredibly autobiographical play and this might explain why the characters took so long to grow on me - like real people they are more flawed than you'd like and not people you want to identify with. The callous act with the shilling really drove this home.

The set was fantastic, Hester's flat took the main part of the stage but the other other apartments in the building became visible as needed through clever lighting and it made the play both claustrophobic and a great reminder that one couple's drama is very small fry in the scale of the world.

Rebecca and I enjoyed the play more than the Wren but we've spent the past 24 hours discussing the whole thing a great deal which implies that there was more to this play than first thought.  While Rebecca and I became more and more involved as the story went on out third found it becoming more trite... it would be a dull world if we all had the same views and in being challenged in our opinions has meant that we've had to think more about our views which is always good.

All of us however, and the people sitting next to us, were bothered by the slightly anachronistic feel to the props and sound  - the most important piece of music came from at least 5 years after the play was written let alone set...

I'm pleased I saw this live, and with friends so we could discuss it - but I do wonder if we'd have seen a different play if our seats had been closer to the stage...

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