The Late Middle Classes, Donmar Warehouse, London
Thursday 03 June 2010
The late Harold Pinter, who first directed the late Simon Gray's The Late Middle Classes, found it to be a rich and beautifully wrought piece of work that was "deeply satisfying" to direct. I see what he means but I do not share his certainty.
That production, which I saw at the Watford Palace, never made the West End. That led to some grumpy protestations, not least from Pinter. So it's good to see the Donmar reviving the piece, even if David Leveaux's production doesn't prove any more persuasive.
There is an air of innocent paedophilia surrounding young Holly's piano lessons with a German refugee, Mr Brownlow, on Hayling Island in the 1950s. The play is contained within a return visit of grown-up Holly (played by Peter Sullivan, who also plays Holly's dad, the pathologist Charles) to his expiring music teacher (Robert Glenister). There's a sort of History Boys poignancy to this relationship, which remains inexplicit though fiercely defended by Brownlow's old mum, Ellie (Eleanor Bron).
Holly's parents are mystified by their son's artistic leanings. Celia, played by Helen McCrory with a snobbish skittishness disguising vulnerability, is an ex-gym mistress wreaking revenge on her "island" race by pulverising them on the tennis court. Charles is enlivening his plods among the corpses at work with casual affairs.
These tensions, and confusions over their son, come to a head in the one magnificent scene, at the start of the second act, where old scores are settled with old sores opened and Gray bursts through the comedy clouds of Coward and Rattigan. Otherwise, the musical doodling on the Bechstein is a bit of a problem, as is the "ageing" challenge that is symptomatic of Gray's theatrical impracticality. Line by line, though, the writing is a joy, and Helen McCrory is both devilish and divine.
To 17 July (0844 871 7624)
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Emma Watson on Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'
- 2 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Cee Lo Green: It is only rape if the victim is conscious
- 5 Nigerian witch-finder Helen Ukpabio threatens legal action against human rights organisations
Scottish independence referendum: Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit to play in support of Yes campaign
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Olivia Colman and Mary Berry top Radio Times' female power list
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain