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Top Ten: Rattigan Returns in Centenary Year

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The centenary of Terence Rattigan's birth is this Friday (10 June 2011). To mark the occasion, Whatsonstage.com has rounded up ten current and forthcoming productions, films and events being presented in honour of the playwright and screenwriter.

Born in 1911, Rattigan went on to become one of the most influential dramatists of the 20th century, with works including The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, After the Dance and Separate Tables.

At the height of his fame, two of his plays ran for over 1,000 performances in London’s West End and another four for over 500. In addition, he wrote numerous screenplays including The Prince and the Showgirl, Goodbye Mr Chips, The Yellow Rolls Royce, Brighton Rock and The VIPs

His later years were marked by bitterness at his decline in popularity, which began with the premiere of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger in 1956. After watching the play, Rattigan was asked by a reporter what he thought of it. The playwright replied that Osborne was saying “Look, ma, I'm not Terence Rattigan” - a comment that would haunt him for almost four decades.

However, since his death in 1977 there has been a steady renewal of interest in his work, highlighted by the fact his centenary is being marked by many of the country’s most important theatres and directors. Writing about Rattigan in 1993, theatre critic Irving Wardle astutely observed, “To most playgoers of my age and younger, what he stands for is more real than what he wrote”. Nearly 20 years on, it appears that balance has finally been redressed.

Cause Celebre - Old Vic (until 11 June)
Anne-Marie Duff stars in Rattigan’s final play, directed by Thea Sharrock (who helmed Rattigan’s After the Dance at the National Theatre in 2010). Cause Célèbre is based on the true story of Alma Rattenbury who was put on public trial in 1935 with her 18-year-old lover for violently killing her husband. You’ll have to get in quick for this one!

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Flare Path - Theatre Royal, Haymarket (until 11 June)
One of the Rattigan centenary’s biggest revivals, Trevor Nunn directs his 1942 war drama Flare Path with a stellar cast featuring Sienna Miller, James Purefoy and Sheridan Smith. The production has got Nunn's year-long stewardship of the TRH off to a blistering start, receiving a raft of four and five star reviews, and should be a hot contender come awards season.

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The Deep Blue Sea - film (release expected later this year)
Rattigan’s enduringly popular 1952 play features perhaps his greatest character - Hester Collyer, the wife of a British judge caught up in a self-destructive love affair with a pilot, played in this soon-to-be-released big screen adaptation by Rachel Weisz. Directed by Terence Davies, the supporting cast includes Tom Hiddleston, Ann Mitchell and Simon Russell Beale.

Rattigan Display - British Library
A special display of items from the Terence Rattigan archive can be seen at the British Library until July, including original manuscript drafts of his most famous works, letters, and other theatrical ephemera. Photos will include this image of Rattigan with a Rolls Royce. Writer of the screenplay for the 1964 film The Yellow Rolls Royce he himself owned two Rolls Royce cars, one with the personal numberplate TR 100.

South Downs / The Browning Version - Chichester (2 September-8 October)
The Chichester Minerva theatre plays host to this mouth-watering double bill of two one-act plays; Rattigan’s 1948 drama The Browning Version, centring on the last few days in the career of a public school Classics teacher, and David Hare’s contemporary response, written at the invitation of the Rattigan estate.

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The Deep Blue Sea - Chichester (13 July-3 September)
Rattigan’s most enduringly popular play, The Deep Blue Sea, is revived by director Philip Franks at the Chichester Festival Theatre where it’s partnered, as part of the venue’s Rattigan “festival within a festival”, with Rattigan’s Nijinsky (see below). The 1952 play centres on Hester Collyer, played at Chichester by Amanda Root, torn between her passionate love for a younger man and the security of a safe marriage. Considered one of the most challenging roles for an actress, Hester has been played in recent productions by Harriet Walter, Penelope Wilton and, in the West End in 2008, Greta Scacchi.

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Rattigan’s Nijinsky - Chichester (19 July-3 September)
Written by Nicholas Wright, this new play is based on a 1974 television script Rattigan wrote for the BBC, centring on Ballet Russes impresario Diaghilev and renowned dancer Nijinsky, that was later mysteriously withdrawn and never produced or published. Wright imagines why the piece disappeared, making the dying Rattigan a character who meets Nijinksy’s widow to fight over his play.

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New publications
New editions of five of Rattigan’s works, with introductions by Dan Rebellato (author of 1956 and All That), are being published by Nick Hern Books: Cause Célèbre (in March 2011), First Episode, Love in Idleness, Who is Sylvia? and Duologue (all in June 2011). Already in print are The Browning Version (with Harlequinade), The Deep Blue Sea, After the Dance, In Praise of Love, Separate Tables, The Winslow Boy and French Without Tears.

BBC Radio
BBC radio is celebrating the Rattigan centenary. BBC Radio 3 presented an all-star performance of Flare Path on 5 June 2011 starring Rupert Penry Jones, Ruth Wilson, Rory Kinnear and Monica Dolan which you can listen to on the iPlayer. It is followed on Radio 4 by The Browning Version on 11 June and In Praise of Love 18 June. A week later, on 25 June, Radio 4 will transfer the Old Vic's production of Rattigan's Cause Célèbre.

My Week with Marilyn - film (yet to be released)
This forthcoming film is based on the diaries of Colin Clark, a 23 year-old assistant on the set of Rattigan’s The Prince and the Showgirl, which famously united Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. Starring Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne and Judi Dench, it chronicles the week during filming when Monroe escaped the shackles of her Hollywood career, including a visit with her new husband Arthur Miller to a legendary party at Rattigan’s country house.


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