WE get new plays and old plays, but a new old play? That doesn’t happen very often, if ever, so Terence Rattigan’s buried comedy Less Than Kind was always going to be intriguing.
It turned out to be much more than that on its first night at the Oxford Playhouse this week. This is Rattigan in territory most of us won’t know — in comedy and politics with a strong aroma of scandal running through it. It’s part farce, part social commentary and part love story. All three angles add up to a compelling love-triangle in this robust production.
The play was written in 1944 but never performed until it was rediscovered last year. Sue Holderness, William Gaminara and Charlie Hamblett tug their emotions every which way as power shifts from one to the other.
The play was based on the same principle as Hamlet: forcing a mother to choose between her lover and her son. But it’s much funnier than that — to be fair there are very few laughs in Hamlet.
The quality of Rattigan’s writing lets the fascinating plot and characters reveal at a gentle but always engaging pace. It combines Noel Coward’s sense of comedy and social idiocy with George Bernard Shaw’s political awareness and makes each serve the other.
All three players mark the developments with subtlety and complete believability. This is a very good play with a very good cast.
Less Than Kind continues at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday. Box office: 01865 305305