On the Rocks, Hampstead Theatre, London
You know what happens when good friends go on holiday
Sunday 06 July 2008
Who needs enemies when you've got pals like D H Lawrence? Amy Rosenthal's enjoyable new biodrama On the Rocks is a serio-comic group portrait that homes in on the novelist's maladroit attempt to create a utopian literary community in Cornwall during the First World War. This is when he and his German wife Frieda – having fled not only her homeland but also her children and first husband – moved to the remote village of Zennor and invited their friends, the writer Katherine Mansfield and her editor-husband John Middleton Murry, to rent the cottage next door.
We see Ed Stoppard's indefatigable Lawrence scorning the aggression of the war and the local xenophobic persecution which his spouse is encountering. Simultaneously, his ivory tower of an idyll is being shot to hell because of his bullish egocentricity and vitriolic temper. He commandeers the other couple's kitchen every night and holds forth at supper. Spouting his credo that male friendships are somehow on a higher plane, he is predominantly interested in bonding with Nick Caldecott's nervously pliant, tweedy Murry. Tracy-Ann Oberman's garrulous Frieda is left to distract Charlotte Emmerson's Mansfield from her writing. Not one for social niceties, Lawrence thinks nothing of manhandling his wife between courses.
What's remarkable is that, thanks to Rosenthal's robust sense of humour and Stoppard's charisma, you don't end up loathing Lawrence. Clare Lizzimore's production involves a somewhat lumpen realistic set on which the drama occasionally stagnates.
But the whole cast give fine performances. Emmerson's increasingly exasperated Mansfield is quietly nuanced, struggling, as the playwright did, with writer's block. Meanwhile, the gents' wrestling scene is a delightfully farcical variation on the famous fireside tussle in Women in Love. Stoppard's skinny, pugilistic Lawrence huffs and puffs as Caldecott's pusillanimous Murry leaps into his arms like a baby.
Hampstead Theatre, NW3 (020-7722 9301) to 26 Jul
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
- 2 Irish people are travelling home from all over the world so they can vote to legalise gay marriage
- 3 Picture of couple posing with beached dolphin 'that later died' causes outrage
- 4 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
- 5 Witch doctor arrested after forcing newborn baby to walk in Indian village
'We didn't really think we'd get away with it': The astonishing story of how two young Irish men completed an audacious £7m art heist
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
Eurovision: The worst lyrics in the contest's history from 'your bum is part of you' to 'stay cool in the swimming pool'
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio return in – 5 things we learned
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland