Friday, 14 April 2017

'Love In Idleness' at the Menier Chocolate Factory

'Love In Idleness' is the latest in a lengthening list of plays by Terrance Rattigan to be performed in the last few years - is there a campaign to rehabilitate and re-evaluate his work? If there is, I'm not objecting. I've seen a few of his plays in recent years and I've enjoyed them all, and 'Love In Idleness' is no exception. It's directed by Trevor Nunn who seems to have married two scripts for the play together to keep the light comedy mood but reintroduce some of the more political elements from the original script that are often missed out. It makes for an interesting evening.

The play opens with Olivia planning a dinner party during the Second World War and phoning round to ensure attendance. She lives with Sir John, a wealthy industrialist and member of the war-time Cabinet who is getting a divorce from his much younger, frivolous wife. Olivia's husband died a few years before and their son, Michael, was evacuated to Canada. Cue problems when they hear that he is returning and has already landed in the country since Olivia hasn't told him about Sir John or that she lives in his house. Relationships are further fouled when it turns out that Sir John is reviled in Canada by Michael and his 'socialist' friends both as a war-mongering industrialist and as a politician. Will Olivia stay with Sir John and their comfortable life with her as a successful society hostess or will she leave with Michael to a life of penury but keep her son's love? You'll have to go and see it to find out because I'm not telling.

I thoroughly enjoyed the play and it had me smiling and laughing (which is no mean feat). Some of 'capitalist'/old fogies versus 'socialist'/younger radicals comments and banter were a bit odd and felt out of place (or maybe that's a 21st Century audience looking at a 20th Century play?) but I felt it all worked really well. I liked the set of Olivia's townhouse and the dingy little flat in West London and the lighting was good. I also liked the scrim curtain that surrounded the stage before each act and onto which was projected newsreel footage from the time.  There were some great references to things like wartime rationing that kept everything set in it's time and space.

It's a small cast led by Eve Best as the over-indulgent Olivia and Anthony Head as Sir John, along with Edward Bluemell as Michael and Helen George as Sir John's ex-wife Diana. Eve and Anthony worked really well together and there seemed to be real chemistry between them, probably borne of a past on the stage of making things work. Whingey Michael needs to grow up a bit and Edward got that mostly right, while Helen was a joy as the ex-wife sick of a boring marriage and wanting some fun.

I'm really pleased I've seen it and would happily go again. I'll add it to my growing list of Rattigan plays I've seen and liked. It's already been agreed that it will transfer to the West End for a short run, so that's a good thing.

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