On the most part, this version of 'The Deep Blue Sea' is excellent
Terence Rattigan has very quickly become one of my favourite playwrights, his dialogue is so intelligent, witty and meaty, his characterisation so dynamic, complex and real and the storytelling so beautifully constructed.
While there is a preference for 'The Winslow Boy', 'Separate Tables' and especially 'The Browning Version', 'The Deep Blue Sea' is still another wonderful Rattigan play with the writing being 24-carat Rattigan and the story being timeless, very like a romantic classic film plot (the 'Brief Encounter' comparison is pretty apt) but also still feeling fresh and current.
Definitive version it may not be, and there are better productions and film versions available of Rattigan's work, but on the most part this is excellent with great performances from the leads. Starting with the flaws, the ending does suffer from being cut to a somewhat insensitive degree so it does lose its impact. The supporting cast is also very important in 'The Deep Blue Sea', that could have been brought out more. The supporting cast do do their hardest and nobody is bad (apart from Wojciech Pszoniak whose Mr Miller is so anonymous that one doesn't remember him at all), but only Carmel McSharry and Stephen Tompkinson make an above good-standard impression, very good in fact.
On the other hand, the production is beautifully filmed and while it does look like a filmed play that is actually an advantage here as the production values are still atmospheric and sumptuous without looking too stage bound. As has been said there is a claustrophobic atmosphere in the play that works so well on stage or as a filmed play and is not quite as effective perhaps cinematically. The writing captures all the intelligence, wit and nuances of Rattigan's style as well as his meaty characterisation, and the story is paced very well and handles the characters and their stories adeptly.
As aforementioned earlier, the leads are great, splendid even. Penelope Wilton may be too old agreed, but that still doesn't stop her from giving a truly sensitive and moving performance. Ian Holm, who was also excellent in the 1985 adaptation of 'The Browning Version' as Crocker-Harris a stuffy and stern character but as one knows more about him one feels a lot of sympathy for him, brings very similar qualities of that performance and even more of a tragic quality to the judge Sir William Collyer and it is truly memorable and beautifully done. The standout is Colin Firth, though Holm is very close behind, who manages to bring a sympathetic edge to a self-absorbed character, not an easy thing to do but Firth pulls it off brilliantly.
Overall, excellent on the most part apart from reservations about the ending and that the supporting cast could have had more prominence, though nobody apart from the Mr Miller came off badly. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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