Rattigan’s “Deep Blue Sea” drained by Terence Davies

Terence Davies is said to be a sensitive chronicler of post-war Britain, but he sure mauled Terence Rattigan’s Deep Blue Sea which really was a wonderful piece of post-war chronicle. (The CFT version was far better.)  

Davies’ big mistakes were to slow the Rattigan to a snail’s pace, to make it unnecessarily gloomy, and to deprive its central character – Hester, Lady Collyer – of the anger, intensity, classiness, intelligence, wit and talent which she has to display along with the despair which at first overwhelms her and which she eventually largely overcomes. It is unfair to pick on Rachel Weisz, who may be capable of acting, when asked to. And it certainly isn’t her fault that she was allowed to speak a mid-Atlantic, classiness demotic. Obviously, she also can’t help being too young for the part.

For some reason, Davies goes out of his way to create scenes in which Hester’s husband, the judge, becomes a mother-ridden wimp, perhaps the better to create in our minds the idea that he might be a closet homosexual, which is nowhere in the Rattigan, and weakens the play’s point. At every other moment Terence goes out of his way to create slushiness and anachronism. It is hardly likely, for instance that a judge would have a huge scene with his wife in front of the chauffeur, or that middle class people would harangue each other in the street or in an art gallery. Come to that, in the 50s, gas fires did not self-ignite, nor did penurious middle class people leave the equivalent of a quid or two lying in the street.

Davies robs several characters of their real interest. Rattigan’s landlady and the disgraced doctor are both sharply-written and crucial to Hester’s self-discovery.

And what was all that singing about?

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Publication date

12 December 2011


On movies; On theatre