The Art of Concealment, Jermyn Street Theatre, London 

4.00

 

Jermyn Street Theatre, which has just deservedly won The Stage's  Fringe Theatre of the Year Award, kicked off 2011 with Less Than Kind, a fascinating, hitherto unperformed draft of an early play by Terence Rattigan.

The venue now ushers in 2012 with The Art of Concealment, Giles Cole's richly insightful and deeply entertaining bio-drama which views the career of this playwright -- the most spectacular casuality of the mid-fifties Royal Court revolution -- from the opposite end of the temporal spectrum.  Pushing sixty-six and dying of leukemia, Alistair Findlay's moving Older Terry is seen anxiously waiting for the curtain to rise on what he knows will be his last play, Cause Celebre (1977).  This predicament prompts memories of earlier First Nights.  Acting as our guide, the ailing, gay dramatist looks back -- not in Osborne-like anger but with a wry, perplexed ruefulness -- on the progress (and otherwise) of his younger self, played here by the dashing, debonair Dominic Tighe who projects perfectly the strain of having to maintain the pretence of being theatreland's 'most eligible bachelor' and the chilly reserve behind the bonhomie that comes from the kind of privilege that allows ruthless compartmentalisation of one's life.

Defty directed by Knight Mantell, the show packs in an incredible amount of material.  It takes us from Rattigan the uppish Harrow sixth-former fending off the philistine demands of the disgraced diplomat father, who wants him to pursue the Establishment success that eluded him, to the paranoid, whisky-guzzling Rattigan of the later years, firing off futile late-night riposted to his chief critical tormentor, Kenneth Tynan.  And the piece is acute about how the plays --  coded not just because homosexuality was criminal but because of a reticent obliquity in Rattigan's nature -- and the life illuminate each other.  There's an extraordinarily powerful sequence where the younger Rattigan reads from the part of Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version so that his actor-lover, the troubled Kenneth Morgan (excellent Daniel Bayle) can audition for the role of Taplow, the pupil who unmans the dried-up school master with a sudden act of kindness.  In the unfeigned tearful breakdown of Rattigan, you see the desperately sad affinities between the playboy dramatist and the emotional sterility of his very different protagonist.  And in the calculated public humiliation of Kenneth, who is forced to perform before two bitchy, jealous male courtiers, you keenly appreciate the inequalities in a relationship where the loved one was continually required to shove off like a guilty secret before daybreak.

There is also the smart idea of confronting Rattigan with Aunt Edna (a comically brisk Judy Buxton) who was the journalistic personification of the middle-class, middle-brow audience he felt had deserted him.  She has several bits of unexpected news for him here.  But then, even for seasoned Rattigan buffs, The Art of Concealment will spring suggestive revelations.

To January 28

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen