Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Director unearthed new Rattigan play

VETERAN director of stage and screen Adrian Brown proudly announces that he is the oldest man still working in the

VETERAN director of stage and screen Adrian Brown proudly announces that he is the oldest man still working in the profession at the grand age of 84.

“I can still do it,” he says, before hastily adding, “direct, I mean.”

Brown has worked with some of the most famous artists of yesteryear, including the late Kenneth Williams (who he says was just as outrageous in real life as he was on screen) and Margaret Rutherford.

He was also a friend of the British playwright Terence Rattigan, whose work is enjoying something of a revival in recent years, and next week he opens a national tour of a previously forgotten Rattigan play, Less Than Kind, at the Oxford Playhouse.

“I was a friend of Rattigan’s,” he says. “He was charming and suave and very good-looking, and all those things that go with success. He crumbled a bit when success stopped, and died at 66, which is far too young.

“The Royal Court Theatre came along with the angry young man, the socially purposeful plays by writers like John Osborne, and he was considered a bit of a writer for the middle classes.

“But he was a wonderful playwright, and in fact there is more to his plays than has been thought, as the current revival has shown.”

In fact, Brown goes so far as to venture that Less ThanKind was actually one of the original angry young man plays, written long before Osborne’s success with the genre.

Set just after the Second World War, the play tells the story of a 17-year-old boy, Michael, who is horrified that his mother has started a relationship with the cabinet minister responsible for tank production. It’s not only his filial loyalties that are offended — the young socialist also has to contend with the imposter’s right-wing views.

Brown says: “In order to focus his mother’s attention he goes round pretending to be Hamlet — Rattigan considered himself a great expert on Hamlet — and the result of course is very funny.”

The play was originally staged by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, but they changed the format so much to make it into the romantic comedy they desired that they actually had to apply for a new licence, renaming it Love In Idleness.

The work was then consigned to a dusty shelf — until Brown read about it in a Rattigan biography written by his friend, Michael Darlow, and approached the lawyers looking after the playwright’s estate.

Less Than Kind made its real début in 2011, the centenary of Rattigan’s birth, at Jermyn Street Theatre in London’s West End, where it received rave reviews, with the Guardian’s Michael Billington calling it a “richly enjoyable production”.

As for Adrian Brown, he is still going strong, with no intention of retiring. “I intend to go on working until I drop,” he says.

lLess Than Kind starring Sue Holderness from Only Fools And Horses and William Gaminara of Silent Witness fame runs at the Oxford Playhouse from May 14 to 18. Box office 01865 305305 or www.oxfordplayhouse.com

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