Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Theather: The Deep Blue Sea

Autour: Terence Rattigan
Original title: The Deep Blue Sea
Director: Carrie Cracknell
Genres: Drama
Cast: Hellen McCrory (Hester Collyer), Tom Burke (Freddie Page), Nick Fletcher (Mr. Miller)
Time: 120 min
Premiere: 8.06.2016, Lyttelton Theater: National Theater, London 

1952, East London. The play starts when Hester Collyer is found by her neighbours after a failed attempt to commit suicide by gassing herself. Little by little details of her prior life with a husband William Collyer, whom she left for a former RAF pilot Freddie Page start to surface. Their relationship was quite passionate and physical, but quickly come to the point of desperation and dissatisfaction. The aftershock of her suicide attempt ruins the remains of this relationship. By the end of the day Hester is left alone with the question: to live or not to live? She chooses to live, but not without the help of an ex-doctor, another resident of the tenement house, Mr. Miller.

About the author:
Ragtigan was born in 1911. He left university in 1934 to dedicate his time to playwriting.  He was one of England's most popular mid-twentieth century dramatists. His plays are typically set in an upper-middle-class background. He is known for such works as The Winslow Boy (1946), The Browning Version (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1952) and Separate Tables (1954) and many others.  The plays whiten during WW2 turned him into a celebrity. After the war his plays started to bear more autobiographic character.

About the play:
Quite interesting is how the play was conceived. Rattigan was gay with numerous lovers, but no long-term partners. In 1939 he met an actor Keneth Morgan with whom he had a relationship. He swamped Keneth his lover with gifts, emotions and money. Morgan however hardly tolerated Rattigan's dominance and in 1949 left dramatist and moved in with another man Alec Ross. Rattigan was expecting that his lover would return to him and comfort he provided. However, in April 1949 Morgan died by gas self-intoxication after a quarrel with his new friend.
This tragedy brought the idea of a new play, which starts with the scene of a body lying in from of the gas fireplace. The next 3 years he worked on it. In the first version of "The Deep Blue Sea" the story of the unhappy relation between the two men took place, but in the 50s, when homosexuality was taken as "social and moral problem similar to heroin addiction", this kind of play would never be staged. The picture of the unhappy woman living with a lover was much more attractive. Now Hester is considered one of the most important theater female figures, which proves the timelessness of Rattigan's plays, in which he describes deep feelings about the unbalanced relationship.

About the cast:
Helen McCrory. This is the second time I saw Helen on the stage, and again she performed in a play directed by Carrie Cracknell, and again she had deeply disturbed and unhappy character person. But what a performance! She is so talented that she can show the transformation from quiet happiness to aggressive insanity in seconds. Her face is so vivid and emotional expressions are so meticulously elaborated that you can see she is in a different league from everyone else on stage.

Unequal love: Hester falls in love with Freddie Page. For this passionate obsession she leaves her successful husband, friends and environment she used to and finds herself in need, humiliation and long-termed depression. Freddie is not the type of a man, who can answer her passion and this understanding drains her strength pushing her to a suicide. Freddie is also not the villain here, he is trying to give as much as he can, but he just does not feel that kind of love towards Hester.
Broken lives: We find here 3 victims of the society in the 50s. First is eventually Hester, who is “living in sin” with her lover, and who left her prosperous husband for a shameful connection. The only way for her to regain her place in the society is to return to her husband apologetically and be forgiven.
Another victim is Freddie, a former RAF pilot, who cannot find his place in the world after the war. He is too old for flying and besides, he drinks a lot, there is no other occupation for him; he lost his path and cannot adjust to the contemporary life.
And the final victim is the sad, shambling figure of Mr. Miller. He is a tenant and former doctor who has been sent to prison for unknown to us crime. Mr. Miller assists Hester during her first attempt and prevents the second by talking her out of it with such desperation, sadness and unhappiness in his voice that even without knowing exactly why he was sent to jail the auditorium can feel that a lot of wrong has been done to this character.

Final thoughts:
Without doubts Terence Rattigan managed to capture the depth of despair in what we found the main character Hester. Together with a brilliant performance of Helen McCrory and director Carrie Cracknell this play shows the complexity of unbalanced relationship, the dependence of a woman on a toxic love without being able to get anything from it. Sure, the character is a victim of her own decisions, but either small or big decisions can change our lives so drastically, that a person will be only one step away from falling into the deep blue sea.

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