David Benedict on Theatre

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When Look Back in Anger - a play with too much ironing and not enough irony - opened at the Royal Court, Terence Ratt- igan's tinkling teacups were thrown unceremoniously into the (kitchen) sink. Even five years ago, predicting a Rattigan revival could have got you certified.

Then Penelope Wilton led the Almeida production of The Deep Blue Sea into town and suddenly, everyone rushed around proclaiming him a master dramatist. Separate Tables came to the Albery, The Winslow Boy is out on tour and The Browning Version opens at Greenwich on Thursday (starring Diana Hardcastle and Clive Merrison, right).

'Rattigan's work is like surgery of the emotions,' says director, Philip Franks. 'There's an enormous tension between the emotional lives of the characters and the overwhelming structural control and shiny craftsmanship. You have to locate everything very precisely. Get a single detail wrong and the whole thing collapses. At first, it all seems rather remote. You think it's about middle-aged people, people who don't talk and don't express themselves, but gradually you realise it's as raw and honest as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

'We've spent hours going through the piece, working out exactly who all the off-stage characters are, what Harrow school would have been like then. Stephen Brimson Lewis's set is very naturalistic, but it yields a few surprises. The play is short, compact but fantastically full. It's a bit like marmite.'

The Browning Version, Greenwich Theatre (081-858 7755) 23 Jun to 23 Jul

(Photograph omitted)

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