Apollo Theatre, London – until 1 July 2017
A young man, with socialist principles, comes back from living in Canada for four years only to find his widowed mother living rent free with a millionaire who is still not quite divorced from his much younger wife. And so begins Terrence Rattigan’s play Love In Idleness.
It is hilariously funny from the off with the characters leading a merry dance around the subjects of love, passion, politics, ideology and loyalty. Set in the latter stages of the Second World War, Olivia Brown is vivacious, charismatic, dippy and ditzy and has been a widow for two years. After her husband dies she falls for Sir John Fletcher, a man with more money than he knows what to do with and who despite being a business man with no political experience, has found himself a member of Churchill’s war cabinet in charge of tanks.
He is as besotted with her as she is with him but because of his job he cannot divorce his wife. Her son Michael comes back from Canada and takes an instant dislike to Sir John and eventually, after much conniving and mischief making, forces his mother to make a choice – him or Sir John. Torn between the two and with distinct references to both Hamlet and Oedipus, she chooses her son over her lover.
The revival is directed with panache by Trevor Nunn and thanks to a stellar cast this staging of the play works really well. Anthony Head as Sir John is terrific, showing off a quiet but steely determination to keep his love, as is Edward Bluemel, fresh from starring in The Halcyon, as Olivia’s sulky, petulant and firebrand son Michael. But it is Eve Best as Olivia who dazzles her way through the production. She positively bursts with energy and is a delight to watch, capturing Olivia’s ditziness perfectly as well as her dilemma at having to choose between son and lover – particularly when her son has given her such a horrid choice. She lights up the stage whenever she is on, which happily is most of the time.
Love In Idleness is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street until April 29. Visit www.menierchocolatefactory.com for full listings.