Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
It's a mark of sheer brilliance that Terence
Rattigan's work not only stands up today but in its own time
broke through barriers that would have been seen in the 1950s
as socially unacceptable.
The point is made even clearer by this production commendably
using the original stage script rather than the somewhat sanitised
version applied to an acclaimed Hollywood-style film.
Here the period is effectively brought to life by a superb
John Ellam set, which manages to convey the size and chilly
aloofness of a private hotel dining-room in Bournemouth as
well as its more conventional and impersonal lounge. Then
there is a fine ensemble company effort shaped and styled
by director Vicky Whitehill to deliver what are in effect
two plays unfolding within the same environment.
Both were written for two performers to interchange the main
roles, which allows for pitch-in grandstanding by Dave Crossfield
and Julie-Ann Randell. They make the most of their opportunities
and it's a measure of how much more strongly the play develops
that both hit peak form in the second half. That's when his
bogus army major and her mother-dominated and neurotic young
woman spark off an unprecedented rumble of impropriety.
Weighed against the forcefulness of these portrayals is a
blissfully funny scene in which two of the hotel's rich elderly
female residents learn with growing horror of the major's
transgressions. It's delivered with delicious relish by Geraldine
Cousin and Susi Walker, who also gets to sum up traditional
prejudices of the day with exclamations like 'drunken red!'
and 'sexual pervert!'
The overall strength of the production is enhanced by the
fact that every character has been carefully cast. Much is
achieved, for example, by Sandy Robertson's retired school
housemaster, disgruntled and disengaged in the manner of the
great Alastair Sim. And Julie Godfrey subtly conveys hidden
emotions along with the quiet authority of the hotel manager
who becomes something of a guiding light to her troubled residents.
The only weakness is when things become a little ponderous
in the first half. At this point the play itself is rather
too wordy and needs to be more forcefully driven.
But this production is a timely and excellent reminder of
the power and prescience of a respected yet still possibly