Fringe Box



‘Less Than Kind’ Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 16 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 20 Mar, 2012

This is the first of what is to be a new regular feature on the website – Theatre Reviews. Our reviewer, ‘The Stage Dragon’, is in the business and knows their stuff. We aim to provide the best quality and most informed reviews for Guildford theatre. So if you are a Guildford theatre goer they are a ‘must read’.

This production unearths a hidden Rattigan original, mining some cut-diamond one-liners, and golden characterisation from a strong ensemble.

As the story goes, Rattigan wrote this play in 1944 but was so receptive to his leading actors’ script requests that he was encouraged, as if by luvvie subterfuge, to substantially rewrite the play, retitled as Love in Idleness. The “Hollywood” casting ensured the production’s financial success, but poor critical reception of the compromised script played some part in Rattigan’s popular decline.

The plot of the play is somewhat loosely “Rattigan does Hamlet”; however, the details and shape of the arc probably owe less to Hamlet than does Disney’s The Lion King.

David Osmond and Caroline Head

To crudely summarise: Michael, a 17 year-old, wannabe-socialist, war-evacuee (David Osmond) returns to London to discover that his widowed mother, Olivia (Sara Crowe) has shacked up with a dead-ringer for Lord Beaverbrook – the capitalist Sir John Fletcher (James Wilby). How can Michael stop the villain from usurping his mother’s bed?

This production successfully strikes the hardest dramatic tone of all, overseen by Adrian Brown’s direction, which unashamedly highlights Rattigan’s best qualities, whilst never being self-indulgent. The cast collectively tip-toe along a fine line of dry, subtle comedy, and irony, before then dismounting with aplomb.

David Osmond particularly stands out, in his impressive range of tone. Sara Crowe offers a truthful understatement that beautifully complements Rattigan’s words. And James Wilby provides a depth and charisma that immerses us in the world of the play, eschewing political stereotyping.

Rattigan then leaves us perhaps with the suggestion that: if post-war England is an “unweeded garden”, is there any harm in earning some money, to employ someone to weed it?

See this production (Tue 14 Feb – Sat 18 Feb). The text is not the best-structured of Rattigan’s rarer treasures, but the cast and creatives produce a vintage of rare quality.

The Stage Dragon

Click here to visit Yvonne Arnaud website Tel 01483 440000

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