Sunday, 21 April 2019

Rattigan’s return is bolstered by the best acting you’ll find

Rattigan’s return is bolstered by the best acting you’ll find

Love in Idleness | Kenton Theatre | Tuesday, March 19

IF you want to see a Terence Rattigan play that is never quite sure what its message is, Love in Idleness is the one.

That said, if you want to see the best acting in town, be sure to get a seat for this — the Henley Players’ latest production.

Jennamarie Smith proves herself a capable director with a serious interest in the text of the play.

The inspired set design cleverly takes us from the — albeit wartime — glamour of a Westminster apartment to a rundown flat in Barons Court.

The costumes are perfect period pieces with men in ill-fitting flappy suits, the women in gorgeous Forties frocks complete with seamed stockings.

So much of the success of any production depends on these behind-the-scenes teams and the Henley Players never disappoint.

As for the acting, Gráinne Harling as Olivia Brown gives an outstandingly modulated performance.

She plays the flirtatious mistress, the making-up-for-lost-time mother, the devoted little wifey/mother to her son, the almost but not quite convert to socialist ideals and the broken hearted ex-mistress.

We believe she believes in every stage of her character’s development and follow her downward spiral closely.

The only slight problem for the other members of the cast is that Gráinne Harling casts such a bright light throughout that they are certain to be somewhat in her shadow.

Even so, Tim Harling (Sir John Fletcher) gives a sound performance as the millionaire politician whose character arc moves from pompous to defeated, then finds his own true voice when he finally stands up to the adolescent brat son, Michael.

We really want to cheer him at that stage, even though we despised his chauvinistic arrogance earlier on. (“Do get me another whisky, darling.”)

Sam Wimbush is well cast and well played as Michael, the adolescent son with the Oedipus complex.

What a pain he is with his socialist ideals. What a selfish brat he is with his manipulations to destroy his widowed mother’s happiness.

No review would be complete without mentioning Margie Barrass as Polton, the nervous, parlour maid; Jan Corby as Miss Dell, the very proper secretary; Jemima Pettifer as the colourful, lively, ex-wife Lady Fletcher; and Trudy Hathaway as Celia Wentworth, dotty novelist and dinner guest.

What an entrance the latter made — stockings wrinkling, coat flying, hat at a jaunty angle. A quite brilliant portrayal of a small cameo role.

Be sure to book a seat for Love in Idleness for all the above reasons and more. There’s plenty of meat in this play and plenty of enjoyment to be had from this production by the Henley Players.

Until Saturday.

Bridget Fraser

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