Writer: Terence Rattigan
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Kris Hallett
We have already had Noel Coward as part of this year’s Bath Summer Season and now we have Terence Rattigan’s almost forgotten While The Sun Shines. which with its farcical complications, ever-shifting emotional attachments and highly moneyed setting could be mistaken at first glance as something from the pen of the writer of Present Laughter or Private Lives.
The most commercially popular work during Rattigan’s lifetime,While The Sun Shines has dropped off the map and found itself rarely produced since – even the playtext is now out of print. Christopher Luscombe’s loving production makes a case for it to re-enter the canon, it may lack the sheer jaw drop of discovery that the National had with After The Dance a few years back, but it is well crafted, entertaining fare that passes the time without ever feeling anything but inconsequential.
In designer Robert Jones’ plush Albany chamber, three men fight over the affection of Alexandra Dowling’s charming Lady Elizabeth Randall. With a face that could launch a thousand ships, it’s little wonder that every man who encounters her is entranced but, as she is due to be married to Rob Heaps foppish and boyish Earl of Harpenden in the morning. the timing couldn’t be worse to be seduced by an American Lieutenant who mistakes her for a tart with whom he has a planned rendezvous and for a comedy Frenchman to declare his undying love for her after sharing a carriage down to London.
Rupert Young is the beefy American who can talk his way into affections and knickers with his straightforward charm. while Nicholas Bishop keeps his caricature of the Frenchman who is more lover than fighter just the right side of ridiculous.
The performance of the night comes from Robert Cochrane who, as The Duke Of Ayr and Stirling, gradually turns more puce with apoplexy as his plans to marry his daughter off to the Earl begin to fall apart around him, as she discovers for the first time the white heat of passion with her American amour. A veteran of hundreds of stage and television roles, it is unlikely that Cochrane has topped his work here, as his Duke scrambles to keep things on track, exploding into fits of verbal rage, while also revealing a penchant for gambling, getting enthusiastically involved as the three potential lovers find themselves playing a game of craps to see who will pursue their desire. Tamla Kari is reunited with her TV Musketeer co-star Dowling as the tart with a heart, in love with the Earl but more in love with the idea of men, who finds herself elevated socially when events tumble in her favour.
Fresh from an acclaimed performance in This Is Living at London’s Trafalgar Studios, Tamla Kari is reunited with her TV Musketeer co-star Dowling as the tart with a heart, in love with the Earl but more in love with the idea of men, who finds herself elevated socially when events tumble in her favour. Meanwhile, Jonathan Dryden Taylor is all weary servitude as the butler who has seen it all before.
Rattigan was incredibly well versed in his theatre history and the work has clearly been influenced by Aristotle and his unities, the French farceurs Lubich and Feydeau, and his contemporary Coward. Its ending may feel a little pat and formulaic but Luscombe, as one of our finest comedy directors, steers the whole thing with a steady hand and a good ear for the rhythm of the work. It may not be an essential rediscovery but there is enough about it to suggest it’ll find itself in a few more theatrical seasons in the years to come.
Runs until 30 July 2016 | Image:Tristram Kenton