‘Second tier Rattigan’ and ‘long neglected’ are expressions that have been used to describe what is a tremendously entertaining play that has not graced a London stage since 1944 – until now. Transferred to the Apollo from the Menier Chocolate Factory, an embryonic staging house for the West End, the play runs for over two hours but never drags. There is a move to ditch the interval (at West End theatres (the latest production at the Barbican starring Jude Law does just that) but this is largely resisted by theatre owners. For certain this player would be too long without a break.
No doubt Eve Best is the new Felicity Kendall. She shines under the direction of Trevor Nunn, and brings the whole story together in such a understated and pleasant way. She perfectly captures the character’s mix of sexual passion and social snobbery: one particular moment, in which she greets a distinctly unwanted guest with a radiantly beaming smile, is the funniest thing in the evening. Yet Best, running her fingers through her son’s tousled hair, also suggests this is a woman driven by maternal devotion. Perhaps too much. I would have shown that prig the door.
Why so many plays I have chosen involve an unbearable adolescent I do not know, but Edward Bluemel (virtually unknown)i s the sulkily and suitably moody Michael, is also brilliant, once I adjusted to his anti-Facsist inclinations. Anthony Head as Sir John artfully combines the iron will of the millionaire businessman and a conservative politician with the deviousness of the determined lover.
A must to see.