Richmond Theatre, London – until 5 September 2015, then touring.
Set in 1942 this National tour of Terence Rattigan‘s wartime masterpiece is celebrating the 70th anniversary of VE day and is drawn from Rattigan’s own experiences of his RAF days of which he is pictured in the program, which incidentally makes for a fascinating read for all ages. With such a stellar cast as this, it was bound to be a fitting tribute to a historic time.
A play about loyalty, heroism, devotion and love. The action takes place in the residents lounge of the Falcon Hotel in Milchester Lincolnshire within easy reach of the RAF Aerodrome which is key to the storyline.
The production opens with a napping Countess Skriczevinsky also known as Doris played by Siobhan O’Kelly. Initially seeming a frivolous, possibly insincere, character, but one whom we quickly learn her adoration and devotion for her husband the Polish Count (Adam Best) is an integral part to the show. Some superb acting by both O’Kelly and Best demonstrates the depth of the characterization.
Leon Ockenden plays visiting film star Peter Kyle. The purpose to his visit is to reclaim the affections of the now married Patricia Warren (Olivia Hallinan) who had left him a year prior as she felt that there was no commitment, neither would there be from Peter. Both Hallinan and Ockenden illustrate beautifully the sheer desperation of a wasted passion and desire to be together, with a realization that for them, their time has passed and life’s events and most importantly duty have taken over.
Sergeant Miller (dusty) played by Simon Darwen gives you an insight into the hardships of being a rear gunner and you genuinely feel the terror that these brave heroes felt as did Alastair Whatley as Flight Lieutenant Graham (Teddy). Whatley’s trauma that we witness on his return from a raid feels real and is a credit to his sterling performance.
This may read as being a very deep and dark play, which in parts it is. However there some lovely witty nuggets to lift the spirit and atmosphere of the production. Particularly from the archetypal hotelier Mrs Oakes (Stephanie Jacob) and visiting wife Mrs Miller (Shvorne Marks) along with Squadron Leader Swanson (Philip Franks). Franks gave empathy and warmth to his role whilst also showing that he would have lived in the eternal fear of the fact, that his men may not return safely, or indeed at all, after a mission.
The sound (Dominic Bilkey) was of immense importance for this piece, not least for the dialog but to create the sounds of wartime Britain whilst the scenes took place in a one-roomed set. It was cleverly recreated here, even whilst we took our seats and during the interval which was great addition to the evening and Bilkey should be applauded along with once again the superbly constructed cast by Anne Vosser
I would really implore you to see this play when it reaches a town near you. This is a stellar cast who give heartfelt performances in this wartime epic informative romance.