Terrence 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.