This is, to date, the only TV or film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's After The Dance, and there's unlikely to be another one, unfortunately.
The main positive of this production is the wonderful source material. The writers haven't fiddled with the script at all- what you see on screen is the play that Terrence Rattigan wrote.
What is the play that Rattigan wrote? It's about a group of middle-class hedonists and the unhappiness behind all the parties, set and written just before WW2. In particular, it's about David Scott-Fowler (Anton Rodgers), a writer who spends more time drinking than he does writing, his wife Joan (Gemma Jones), and pretty Oxford student Helen (Imogen Stubbs), who has her eye set on reforming David. The marriage between David and Joan is on the surface a loveless one. However tragically Joan has always secretly loved David. Their friend John (John Bird) is secretly in love with Joan.
The play is sort of a mix between Chekhov and Fitzgerald. The tragicomedy and the pain of loving the wrong people is typical Chekhov. The hedonism and the character of David are based on Scott Fitzgerald. As this play is so underrated, one would hope that the BBC would realise what a gem they have and create a dynamic version. However they seem to have picked it simply because of Rattigan's name, and so they have done a dutiful adaptation.
Rodgers and Jones are excellent but they are far too old for their parts. They appear to be in their early fifties rather than late thirties. Whilst this does effectively convey the lethargy of all those parties, it doesn't show the tragicomic aspect of them trying to regain their youth (their youth being in the twenties). It also stretches credibility that Helen would fall for David. Bird is also excellent as the friend who sponges off David. He's a sponge but he's also a decent guy, who tries to talk some sense into David.
I'd recommend watching this as a preservation of a very good play. It would probably be best to read the play first, just in case you don't like this version.
There's a great moment where one of the guests suggests that they wanted to have a gas-mask fancy dress party only it'd be hard for people to drink.
The flaw of this production is that one gets the sense that the BBC are preserving the play rather than interpreting it. It's a flaw present in many of the BBC's theatre adaptations, even in this one which was made in the early nineties. The acting itself is nearly always to a good standard- it's just a shame that they aren't as dynamic as they should be.
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