Writer: Terence Rattigan
Reviewer: David Jobson
In his life Terence Rattigan had an unfortunate career as a playwright. Next to George Osborne, Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, his plays were seen as quaint, old fashioned drawing room dramas.
These days the issues he raised that were considered taboo back then have become ingrained into society. It is hard not to recognise the relevance of his works, and the Watermill’s production of The Deep Blue Sea never strays far from the heart of the play.
The play starts with an unsettling image. A woman discovered collapsed on the floor of her lodging house with the smell of gas hanging in the air. Sometime before Hester was the wife of a court judge, William Colyer (Adam Kotz), but she left him to be with a dashing former-RAF pilot Freddie Page. Her attempted suicide brings forth the remnants of two unhappy relationships.
The most prominent being Freddie, still struggling to fit into civilian life since leaving the RAF. He first appears callous and insensitive, incredulous that Hester may commit suicide just because he forgot her birthday. Still, Adam Jackson-Smith aptly portrays Freddie’s growing despair as he comes to terms with Hester. As their relationship falls apart, the audience begins to wonder whether this was indeed a passionate one.
Trapped in a loveless marriage to Colyer who cares for nothing but his own reputation Hester finds solace in Freddy. A stand out performance is given by Hattie Ladbury as Hester. For the first act she is a mask of perseverance. The second act becomes a psychological drama as the characters come to terms with themselves.
Between Hattie and Freddie it seems that ignoring their broken relationship is the best thing to do and soon she is forced to face this fact. From behind Ladbury’s veneer comes a woman struggling to imagine a life without Freddie.
Not everything is downcast though and there is some light relief from the other tenants. Phillip Welch (Fred Lancaster) and his attempt at giving Hester marital advice is quaint. The only comfort comes unexpectedly from James Hillier as Mr Miller. Seemingly unqualified as a doctor, his treatments for Hester proves rudimentary and blunt. Yet he later reveals another side to him in that proves quite poignant.
Rattigan’s plays may be understated compared to his contemporaries but they prove to be psychological studies on the repressed desires and sufferings his characters face.
The Watermill’s production portrays the The Deep Blue Sea’s exploration of love and marriage with sharp clarity and with a fantastic cast this is a production well worth seeing.
Runs until 4th July 2015