National Theatre (Lyttelton)
Reviewed on Monday 11th June 2016
After their critical success with Medea in 2014, director Carrie Cracknell reunites with Helen McCrory to revive Terence Rattigan's devastating masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea.
McCrory plays Hester Collyer, a women lost in the waves of love. In fact she has fallen so deeply, the threat of her feelings being unrequited have sent her into a suicidal spiral. Her current partner Freddie (Tom Burke) is a drunk, and her wealthy ex-husband William (Peter Sullivan) holds no appeal. It's a story of despair: what do we do when the one thing that keeps us going, the one eternal flame we hold for someone, is extinguished.
Cracknell's production is atmospheric, gripping and tense, playing out almost in real time, giving us a real glimpse into Hester's plight. Tom Scutt's clever apartment set design matched with Stuart Earl's chilling music and Guy Hoare's captivating lighting, create a masterpiece in storytelling. There are some astonishingly beautiful moments of almost stillness in the piece, which divide up the drama, giving the audience a chance to readjust - focus more. In fact, I don't think we've ever been to the National Theatre and heard a pin drop more.
There's strong work from Tom Burke, dishing out barbed putdowns one minute and empty promises the next, whilst Hubert Burton as overly zestful neighbour Philip is warmly charming. Nick Fletcher as Mr Miller is also a treat, as he barters between dry wit and Hester's only friend.
Of course the production belongs to Helen McCrory, and she's devastatingly beautiful. Full of raw emotion, you can feel every inch of her anxiety, her pain and her utter loss at what to do. It really is a heartbreaking performance that is sure to be remembered.
The Deep Blue Sea contains some of Rattigan's most beautiful yet soul-destroying lines of dialogue, and this National Theatre production is as close to a triumph as you'll ever see. Theatre at its best.
Reviewed by Oliver Dowdeswell
The Deep Blue Sea runs at the National Theatre (Lyttelton) until 21st September 2016. Please visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk for further information and tickets. The Deep Blue Sea will be broadcast to cinemas on 1st September.
Photo Credit: Richard Hubert Smith