The life of poet Philip Larkin has been dramatised before. Writer David Pattison explores the contradictions that comprised Larkin through the eyes of the women in his life. Although lyrical and moving the play is also a pedestrian checklist of key events in Larkin’s life. This leads to unrealistic dialogue and an artificial atmosphere.
This artificiality occurs in the performances. Jackie Rogers brings charm to a comic role as Larkin’s mother. Kathryn Worthington and Rachel Dale fill more stereotypical roles as, respectively, a woman Larkin seduced for the challenge or Monica, the nearest he came to a lasting relationship. As Monica’s physical condition deteriorates Dale’s acting becomes increasingly broad.
Although not yet word perfect, Richard Vergette tackles the role of Larkin with absolute conviction and beautiful vocals – a shame that the poems are not part of the show. Larkin is not portrayed as the Hermit from Hull but someone who allowed himself to be intimate with few people and was capable of causing suffering with intent as well as by accident.
Director Andrew Pearson offers a comedy of manners. This naturalistic approach is valid but clashes with the classic elements of farce in the play such as the strained conversations between Larkin’s lovers.