Trevor Nunn recently came across a prophetic introduction to the two plays by drama critic and academic Dan Rebellato that read, 'an enterprising director will come along and make a synthesis of the two versions'.
Indeed, the director’s fusion of the two versions results in a play that reaches across three temporal frameworks: the immediate past, where living on eight pounds a week was seen as an extravagance; the present political maelstrom; and the future: unclear.
The result taps into the cavernous depths of Rattigan's writing, and Nunn's production comes to the West End's Apollo Theatre following a run at the Menier Chocolate Factory that garnered glowing reviews.
Eve Best and Edward Bluemel in 'Love in Idleness'. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
The play follows charismatic widow Olivia Brown (Eve Best), who is madly in love with wartime Cabinet minister, tank developer, and millionaire businessman Sir John Fletcher (Anthony Head). The power couple’s domestic bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Olivia's son Michael (Edward Bluemel) who returns from the people’s socialist republic of Canada after wartime evacuation precautions are lifted.
Michael has spent too much time in Canada. He comes back to England spouting liberalisms that immediately clash with Sir John’s industrialist ideologies.
Michael sulks across the stage, finds increasing insult at the hands of his enemy-usurper and develops an interest in poison as his teen angst reaches Hamlet proportions. The ensuing heartbreak and hilarity are perpetuated by the ethereal Eve Best (The King’s Speech, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man), whose entrancing performance provides the emotional crux of the play as audience members develop genuine emotional investment in her happiness.
We’re first introduced to Olivia draped across a lavish sofa engaged in rapid-fire, sweet-talking coercion with government officials to host a dinner party. The contrast of domestic opulence with the rationing and destitution beyond the stage cleverly evokes some sitcom set in the second world war.
This staging uses newsreel footage of the time period to assist Nunn’s artistic intention of making us take a long, hard look at the political maelstrom characterising 2017.
Edward Bluemel, Anthony Head in 'Love in Idleness'. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
Portraying the malleability of political opinions, Michael and Sir John work to overcome the obstacles of conflicting opinion. They personify the polarising emotions of capitalistic greed and guilt that exist inside Olivia (and, indeed, within Rattigan, and, arguably, us all), swept up into a slapstick Shakespearean scenario.
Through this marrying of material Nunn detonates rather than disarms the political charge that ran rampant through the original script. Across two hours and 45 minutes of rapture the cast’s command of timing seamlessly merges the Frankenscript with Nunn’s directorial vision. This family farce bursts with life.
Public booking for Love in Idleness at the Apollo Theatre is open now. Click here to book.
|What||Review: Love in Idleness, Apollo Theatre|
|Where||Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
11 May 17 – 01 Jul 17, Check website for comprehensive timings
|Price||£18.75 - £83.75|
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|