After a hiatus the Terence Rattigan revival returns with a production of this farcical comedy that was a big hit for Rattigan back in 1943 - it was one of three plays he had running simultaneously in the West End, the other two being Flare Path and Love in Idleness. As it's Rattigan one can be sure it's a well made play and it is, every little fragment of information planted in the first act bearing fruit in the second and third, but it's pretty lightweight stuff and, over all, strains to justify its two and a half hour length.
The farcical element is, naturally enough, the plot, featuring three military men - Englishman, Frenchman and American: it's wartime, after all - proclaiming their love for the same guileless young woman while the bride-to-be's conniving father and an older, wiser lady of questionable virtue stand by to collect what they can and generally add to the complications. It's often very funny with some brilliant Rattigan-esque set pieces, especially in the latter two acts. But, it must be said, the first act with its exposition and its setup scenes is a bit of a chore.
Still, the usual fine cast - with one exception - from the Orange Tree and an absolute star turn from the always wonderful Dorothea Meyer-Bennett as Mabel, the "other" woman, stealing every scene she's in. You have to wait for her - she doesn't appear until act two, which may be the real problem with act one.
Time Out thinks it's a bit light but agrees with mallardo about the wonderful Dorothea Meyer-Bennett, who used to be a mainstay of the now, apparently, sadly defunct Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.
I saw this this afternoon and agree that it was well written but quite light. It was the first Rattigan farce I've seen and although it was well structured, it wasn't a patch on Present Laughter that I saw earlier on in the week but I am glad I made the effor (This might be the production rather than the writing though) I totally agree that there was a massive weak link in the cast. I wonder if we agree on which cast member it was!.
Dorothea Myer-Bennett was indeed wonderful. What's this about SATTF being defunct?
It was my 4th or 5th visit to this theatre, but I don't think I've been for a Saturday matinee before. I was the youngest person there by at least 30 years. 50 years in some cases I reckon. I hope I am still theatregoing when I am 75-95!
Light comedy, well farce really, which is of its time. Undemanding stuff if you want some laughs without too much thinking. yes it's cleverly-written and very well structured but the claims of hidden depth being made for it in some quarters are I think excessive and driven by wishful thinking.
Sometimes when at the Almeida, Donmar or, increasingly at the NT when I have just endured another achingly right-on production of some edgey new, or not so new drama, I yearn for 'The Well Made Play' that is extremely well acted, inventively directed and stylishly designed. Well I got that last night here. Although the play is quite dated it was performed so winningly that you could just surrender to the farcical elements whilst also admiring Rattigan's technical skill in setting up all the plot strands.
I also liked how they preserved the 3 act structure with two intervals - in fact I couldn't see it working as well in any other way.
The top-notch cast was led by the excellent Philip Labey as the Earl. Throughout the performance it bugged me that I recognised his face - where had I seen him before? Some play at The Nash? No, it was the Oak Furniture Land ads of yore where he plays the young sales assistant with the catch-phrase 'No veneer in 'ere!'