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As we continue in this uncertain and complex situation towards a post pandemic future some positive news has emerged this week of government funding for the arts but meanwhile during this State-imposed hibernation, National Theatre Live continue to stream archived productions, currently Carrie Cracknell’s revival of Sir Terence Rattigan’s well-crafted play The Deep Blue Sea. This intense, emotional drama is considered to be a disguised portrayal of Rattigan’s own closeted relationship when his secret lover committed suicide.
The action takes place in West London 1952 in a drab flat in Ladbroke Grove over a period of one day. Embittered and childless Hester Collyer has defied convention and left her dull, affluent husband Sir William Collyer to live in near poverty with her much younger spirited lover ex Spitfire pilot Freddie Page. Their turbulent affair is now disintegrating, Freddie is out of work with his heavy drinking out of control and the play famously opens with Hester lying in front of the gas fire attempting to take her own life. However, her life is spared by the lack of gas and the intervention of concerned neighbours who contact her estranged husband. He offers her a chance to return to her life of security with him but she feels caught between the devil and the deep blue sea … When the bungled suicide is revealed, war-damaged Freddie cannot bear to cause her so much pain and leaves immediately for a job in South America.
A strong, astutely observed performance from Tom Burke playing the dashing, shallow cad Freddie Page who shows such flippant selfishness and utter disregard for Hester’s feelings. The self-controlled, respectable but emotionally retarded Judge Sir William Collyer is excellently played by Peter Sullivan who epitomises the repressed desires of the early 50’s. A masterclass from fragile-framed Helen McCrory in the title role as she inhabits the character of neurotic, obsessive and infatuated Hester Collyer. She holds you captive from start to finish as she desperately clings to this imbalanced affair with all its impassioned and all-consuming despair. Her life without Freddie is not worth living..
With a strong supporting cast this is an excellent resurrection of a classic play revealing powerful suppressed emotions.
Reviewer: Jill Lawrie