Review: Less Than Kind, Jermyn Street

“There’s not a single situation that can’t be resolved with small talk”

Getting in with the celebration of the centenary of Terence Rattigan’s birth (as they did with Sondheim last year), the Jermyn Street Theatre have managed the impressive feat of unearthing a hitherto unperformed play, Less Than Kind, which is therefore receiving its world premiere here. Written in 1944, it suffered the rather ignomious fate of being rewritten and reshaped into a fundamentally different play to please the all-powerful producer/actors who were financing the show. It changed so much as to be given a different name, Love In Idleness, but it seriously damaged Rattigan’s reputation as it revealed the extent to which he kowtowed to the commercial interests of the day at the severe expense of his original artistic vision. But fortunately a copy of the original play survived and that it what is being mounted here, directed by Adrian Brown.

The play is set in London in 1944 and centres around the return of Michael Brown, an idealistic teenager who was evacuated to Canada and is shocked to find on his return, that his mother is now living a life of luxury since she is the mistress of a wealthy businessman who has been co-opted into the War Cabinet to assist with the manufacture of tanks. Whilst abroad, Michael discovered socialism so his mother’s perceived betrayal is both a personal and political insult to him and so he sets about forcing his mother to choose between her son and her lover. Rattigan has stuffed the show with heaps of articulate, witty dialogue and it is a genuine hoot at times, I’m not too sure that the Hamlet references were hugely successfully integrated but the play stands up as a fairly strong piece of comic drama. Continue reading “Review: Less Than Kind, Jermyn Street”

Review: Inherit The Wind, Old Vic

“I don’t want to believe that we come from monkeys and apes, but I guess that’s kinda besides the point”

Inherit The Wind is a courtroom drama, based on the true life story of a Tennessee schoolteacher who was threatened with imprisonment for teaching Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution, in direct contravention of school policy. A highly strung court case then follows, pitching creationists against evolutionists, and bringing two legal titans to a small town in Tennessee to argue the case, the ramifications of which clearly extend beyond that classroom in the Deep South. Its timing seems uncanny: even on the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin of Species, a highly recommended (by me at least) film Creation, about Darwin’s struggles with his own faith as he wrote it, has not been able to find a distributor in the US because it is considered too ‘controversial’ in a country where allegedly barely a third of the population actually believe in evolution.

The scale of this production really is admirably epic: the staging is superb, with the Old Vic’s stage being opened up to a great depth (you could probably fit the stage for Annie Get Your Gun on there 15 times over!), the already healthy cast is ably bolstered by a phalanx of supernumaries, bringing the total company to 50 bodies who bring an authentic air of claustrophobic small-town living to several scenes, most notably the prayer meeting just before the trial. The use of hymns sung by the company during scene changes further reinforces this strong sense of a community joined by the power of their faith. Continue reading “Review: Inherit The Wind, Old Vic”