I saw this show on Oct 1st. I overheard patrons of The Chichester Festival (which runs sometimes on two stages, March through October) say that this was the best production of the year. As I was only able to see one other production of the Festival, I can't make that sweeping comment. But I will say it's one of the best shows I've seen in a very long time. There has been much said of Terrence Rattigan & his brilliance. He was a magnificent observer of people. He captures the soul of the characters and presents them with startling & painful reality. This production would have made him very proud. A perfectly chosen ensemble for a cast. Each adding their own nuances and layers to the story. But the leads, Iain Glen and Gina McKee are brilliant. They are as dazzling in the first act as they are heart-wrenching in the second. They absolutely sizzle as the long divorced couple. She stalks him to this Bournemouth hotel. You can almost see the electricity crackling between them. He, the once promising Labour MP ruined by a desperate act elicited by her ice queen 'look but don't touch' demand. She, a fading fashion model, another failed marriage in her wake, now desperately alone. They are both broken shells of their former selves. By the time their whole story emerges you care deeply about "what happens now" to these two damaged souls. The second act is just as powerful. As noted above this is actually two one act plays with only the lead characters completely reinventing themselves as new characters, for the second act. I don't know if this how Rattigan meant it to be played but in this case, it is a stroke of genius. Though I'm not sure that there are many actors who could so convincingly morph into these diametrically opposed characters. He has now aged about 10-15 years and his loose limbed almost predatory swagger is replaced by a mincing, straight backed stride with every movement carefully choreographed to uphold his facade. He is now the "Major" who has lived there for sometime as an ex-Black Watch... or was it Highland Regiment member? McKee, as Sybil, has regressed by seven years & is the homely, fearful, spinster; the adult daughter, forever locked in childhood and illness by her domineering mother, Mrs Railton-Bell (wonderfully personified by Stephanie Cole). Mrs RB is the self-proclaimed leader of this motley crew of residents. Sybil has developed a friendship with the major. Perhaps for the first time in her life she has found someone interested in who she is and who treats her as an adult. Perhaps it is because he recognizes a part of himself in the repressed and fearful Sybil. Both are afraid of living, both are afraid of exposing or even confronting who they really are. In the first act Glen’s character “never lies” and in the second, his entire life is a lie. It is the manageress, Pat Cooper (Deborah Findley in a pitch perfect performance) that brings forth the truths in each act and who knits the two halves together. It is her intervention that makes you dare to hope that somehow, there will be healing. At first glance, each act is about completely different things. But they are in fact about the same things. Glen and McKee are so believable that they make you physically feel their pain of loss, rejection, loneliness, despair and soul wrenching fear. They pull you in and hold you spellbound...afraid to watch and at the same time afraid to look away. Bravo to all involved. If you think the only place to see great theatre is London or New York. Think again.
- K M Cavouti
Whatsonstage.com - Discount London theatre tickets, theatre news and reviews, Theatre videos, Theatre discussion, National Theatre Listings. Covering London's West End, all of Theatreland and all UK theatre. The best
for London Theatre Ticket Discounts.