Rufus Norris is really coming into his own at the National. This and our next review (The Threepenny Opera) are signs that he is making some interesting choices for the programming at the National and this is exactly what we need.
Rattigan’s ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ is set in London in the 50s. The play opens with a woman’s attempted suicide in a flat which is clearly one of several in a house. The walls and windows are lit so that sometimes it seems as if we are looking at the building from the street rather than being inside the building itself. Being able to see the National’s staging and rigging of the lights on the wings created a metaphor for the conflicting internal and external attributes of the characters.
The play’s three main characters are the judge, his ex-wife, Helen McCrory, and her lover, the washed-out ex-RAF pilot for whom 1940 represented the apogee of his life. The play deals with failed relationships in which the individuals want more than they can give or for whom the intimacy of a relationship confers a wholeness which repairs the void of isolation. The final scene sums up the subtle handling of a plot in which life, death love and passion have all been the quiet themes. Helen McRory, who will no longer see her ex-pilot, enters a reverie of her memories with him but is suddenly distracted by nothing more than her supper cooking on the hob. Whilst this could merely seem mundane it nonetheless also represented appetite – for life.
The main quartet of actors give an outstanding ensemble performance. Helen McCrory was exceptional as Hester McCrory, illuminating the stage with her presence and performance. She was supported excellently by Tom Burke, a star who has been rising slowly but steadily over the past few years. His performances seem to take on more maturity and emotional truth with each new role. Whilst Peter Sullivan and Nick Fletcher were brilliant in supporting roles.
This was another exceptional piece of theatre, delivered beautifully by a cast of talented actors.
Highlight of the piece – Helen McCrory making a sandwich to close the play. Showing the true healing power of an egg bap.