Review – The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre

Wednesday 8 June 2016

ntgds_ak_webimages_0405165_tdbsTerrence Rattigan and egg-frying. That’s the double whammy it takes to get Andrew into a theatre these days. Of course we couldn’t have known about the on-stage cookery and (Spoiler Alert) it comes at the end of the play.

But was it real of faked? We weren’t entirely sure. The egg was definitely cracked. The gas appeared to be lit and butter (yes, butter – Andrew was thrilled) was put in the pan. The roar of the grease could be heard sizzling but there was no haze and from our row D stalls seats we could smell nothing. A brief post-show discussion with Circle-seated acquaintances convinced us otherwise. They claimed they got a whiff of Helen McCrory‘s egg.

Yes, there’s a lot of gas in the The Deep Blue Sea. Coincidentally on the same day that Phil had saved himself a fortune by changing his gas tariff. Not just the cooking, or the copious amounts of chit chat, but it opens with Hester Collyer’s suicide attempt, which has failed because she’s forgotten to put a shilling in the meter.

Fortunately Hester’s got decent neighbours who deal with the situation as delicately as possible. A couple upstairs (Hubert Burton and the fabulously monikered Yolanda Kettle) who will be late for work, a bookie (Nick Fletcher) who was struck off practising medicine for reasons that aren’t made entirely clear and her gossipy landlady (Marion Bailey, Mike Leigh’s partner in real life) who likes a good gas too. Just to keep our theme flowing.

Hester left the respectability of life with her husband, High Court Judge, William (Peter Sullivan) and hooked up to get her eggs sizzling a bit with the younger, bit-of-an-lush, former test pilot, Freddy Page (Tom Burke, good). Trouble is it’s all gone off the boil a bit.

Despite Act 1 of Carrie Cracknell‘s production going on a bit, Andrew professed he was “a bit teary” at the interval and found himself “hypnotised”, not least by the fifties kitchen paraphernalia of Tom Scutt‘s towering gauze-walled Ladbroke Grove house which has opted for “Drear” on the colour chart.

It wasn’t until Act 2 that there was any movement in Phil. McCrory’s Hester certainly goes through the wringer impressively and puts us through it too. Her strange relationship with the “Don’t call me doctor”/bookie – finding common ground in social ostracism – is subtly drawn. Less subtly drawn are her drearily dreadful paintings which she believes she can sell. Good luck with that.

While Andrew wasn’t busy being moved he was coveting and hypnotised by Hester’s teapot. Could the National gift it to him please when the production ends? You can keep Hester’s art.






7 Responses to “Review – The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre”


    I thought it was well known that the ‘I’m not a doctor’ doctor had been struck for conducting abortions. It seemed clear in the terrific Karel Reisz production with Penelope Wilton. That’s the production – filmed later for TV – that must be the benchmark for this Rattigan play. The Ed Hall production with Greta Scacchi paled in comparison.

    • Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

      I saw the Penelope Wilton version. The great thing about getting old is that everything seems like the first time, so no recollection of that.

  2. margarita Says:

    Trivia: Many years ago I worked at The Vienna English Theatre where there was a full fire inspection before EACH performance and a fireman sat by the side of the stage throughout. Because lots of firemen shared the duty and were looking at the stage they were under orders not to catch the eyes of the actors.

    We’d managed to negotiate a live electric stove on which coffee was heated and bacon was fried so the smells were authentic. But one night there was a flash of flame, instantly covered by an actor with a cloth, and after that it was only a play with pretend cooking.

    If you couldn’t actually smell the activities at the NT I wonder ….

  3. surreymusic Says:

    I can report that a genuine egg was fried and consumed at the preview performance on Saturday evening. From the front row you could see the yolk dripping out the bottom of McCrory’s sarnie which caused a slight frisson in the stalls.

    Such a relief to see a decent play well directed at the Nash after far too many iffy evenings.

  4. Pamela S Says:

    I propped for a production of Don’s Party a number of years ago – every night, a real pizza was cooked on stage and devoured by the cast at interval. Apparently, the smell of cooking ham, tomato and mozzerella cheese would drive the audience in the first few rows out to the bar at interval looking for food. We only twigged afterwards that we should have been selling pizza to the punters.

  5. Chris Voisey Says:

    I was that circle acquaintance and yes Helen’s egg was really cooked by her fair mitts on the actual stage… made me quite hungry. Where will Carrie Cracknell and Helen McCrory head next for a love-crazed heroine one wonders?

  6. cherry thompson Says:

    I left at the interval as did the friend I was with. I’ve never been so disappointed in such a hyped review. Oh naively me. Overall mediocre acting and I don’t know what Helen McRory was doing with such an annoying oral tic.

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