The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan

Photographs included courtesy of Peter Sillick.

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Review of The Deep Blue Sea, directed for the Bourne Players by Ellis Nicholls

Last week, the Bourne Players honoured the centenary of the birth of the celebrated playwright, Terence Rattigan, with performances of The Deep Blue Sea at the Bourne Hall. The play was written in 1952, when public morality was much less tolerant than it is today. Marriage breakdown and divorce carried a shameful stigma hardly creditable in 2011.

And thus when Hester, in a dull marriage to a judge years her senior, leaves him for Freddie Page, a test pilot many years her junior, her toy-boy relationship brings her as much anguish as joy. So much so that the play begins with her at breaking point having just attempted suicide.

Though she has found her new lover exciting and her commitment is total, his commitment is clearly less intense, shallow even. He thinks only of himself and the consequences for him if she had succeeded in her attempt, complaining that "This would have been front page stuff - all over the ruddy News of the World."
The play proceeds to expose the feelings Freddy and Hestor have for each other while keeping the audience in suspense as to whether the relationship will survive the crisis. With many Herald readers looking forward to seeing the film version starring Rachel Weiss just released in cinemas nationwide, it would be churlish to give away more of the plot. Suffice to say that Ellis Nicholl's production brings out all the emotional intensity in the relationship, helped in no small measure by a superb performance by Sara Rowe as Hestor. Her portrayal of a passionate woman racked with self-loathing won her the sympathy of the audience, while Chris Deacon as thoroughly convincing as the self-centred Freddie.

All the characters in a strong supporting cast were well-defined and well performed. Nigel Dams was both aloof and yet sympathetic as the deserted husband, and Heather Meldrum brought a common touch as the landlady not above betraying the confidences of her tenants. The neighbours played by Clive Adam, Cerys Traynor and Jonathan Hart were effective in their roles. Perhaps the most interesting of the assorted neighbours is Ian Wilson-Soppitt's Mr Miller, a German refugee with a mysterious past. At first he seems to see the suicide attempt as just a minor incident but his advice to Hestor that "The only purpose in life is to live!" is more revealing.

With due attention to detail in the set design, furnishings and costumes Ellis Nicholls and his technical team, Joan Cotterill (props), Brezetta Thonger (costumes), Pauline Dowsett (hairdressing), Penny Treeby (make-up), Dan Winterton (lighting) and Rob Barnard (sound) captured the style and atmosphere of the early 1950s. The Bourne Players can be proud of a production that did full justice to Rattigan's masterpiece.

Noel Thompson