Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Theatre Review: The Deep Blue Sea

As nice as it is to be surprised, it’s also nice when you think you’re going to love something, you see the something and you actually do love the something.

It’s also probably quite a spoilery way to start a review, but ho hum.

Case in point: the National Theatre’s current orgasm of a production of Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea.

Image source.

Telling the story of Hester Collyer and her tangled, messy love life, The Deep Blue Sea is really a classic study in love, loss and longing. It’s a beautiful play full of fucked up people and feels as relevant, fresh and relatable today as the day it was written. I thought I was probably a fan of Rattigan’s work after seeing the fluffy, funny, wry Harlequinade last year and, whilst it’s certainly not fluffy and only occasionally funny and/or wry, The Deep Blue Sea has confirmed it. Just call me a Ratti-fangirl. Or preferably don’t, actually.

Moving on... I was certainly a (Ratti-)fan of this stunner of a production. Director Carrie Cracknell (fully redeeming herself after her pretentious nonsense of a Macbeth earlier this year) delivers a sexy, beautiful, desperate but ultimately hopeful production, dripping with style. It’s paced perfectly with each scene being given the space it needs to breathe without slowing down the action too much. You very much get the feeling that Cracknell knows she’s assembled one of the best casts in London on her stage and is quite content to just sit back and let them do their thing; exactly how it should be.

She is of course correct in her assessment of her cast too. First of all, holy fuck I love Helen McCrory. She’s excellent in literally everything she’s in and here she’s on blazing form as Hester, a perfect mix of clipped Englishness, desperate longing and, ultimately, steely bravery. I rather suspect that Hester Collyer is one of those parts that every theatrical generation has ‘their’ incarnation of and I’m more than happy if McCrory is mine.

As her conflicting love interests, Tom Burke is an excellent lovable, sexy, disaster zone as Freddie whilst Peter Sullivan is understated brilliance as a repressed and quietly desperate Sir William. Sullivan is genuinely outstanding in this part actually and almost - almost - upstages McCrory in what is, in the context of this play, a rather thankless part. I desperately wanted Hester and Sir William to kiss and make up because of his performance. Nick Fletcher also deserves a mention for a humane, inspirational-but-not-sugary Mr Miller. The rest of the small cast, who I’m not going to go through and name (jeez, just Google it), round out an incredibly strong ensemble. Even the people whose role is literally just to walk up and down the stairs in the background of the set are fab.

Speaking of the set, it’s amazing. Designer Tom Scutt has developed a section of an authentic, period three story apartment block and plonked (technical term) it on the Lyttelton stage. If that sounds rather techy and boring then it’s really not; it’s beautiful. It almost looks like a film set more than a theatre one, certainly the sweep of the design is very cinematic. The blue toned lighting and authentically crackly-record soundscape help create a suitably sexy atmosphere. It’s a great looking - and sounding - piece. Some of the best design I’ve seen for a very long time.

This production is a must see, simply. Miss it and regret it. Go and see it and go and see it now.

The Deep Blue Sea plays at the Lyttelton at the NT until September 10th, with very limited ticket availability. It gets the NT Live treatment on September 1st.

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