Back to 2017
2017/06/30 night – Love In Idleness – Apollo Theatre, London
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes
I’m perfectly aware one should write a report during the run of a play, not after it ended, while I’m two weeks on late. Anyway, it’s here! It contains some spoilers, in case you haven’t seen this play, yet.
Love In Idleness is the only play considered classic I saw during this holiday. I found a flyer in London last May and I got interested in a snap. I hadn’t seen a play by Terence Rattigan before, so I was curious. I read in the programme that it’s part of a ‘War Trilogy”, which is much political, but it’s still comedy: the author thought that ‘even in wartime we can laugh at ourselves‘. It’s also told on one article that the playwright was gay and that his homosexuality had an impact on his work. And yet ‘he was a tailgunner in the RAF‘, so I suppose he didn’t look gay to his fellow men. I can only trust who wrote the article.
The cast made me take the final decision of seeing it on its second last day at the Apollo Theatre. I find Anthony Head very nice from some roles he played and I wanted to see the two younger actors on stage. I follow Charlotte Spencer for some time, after she made the musical Stephen Ward and was posting fun stuff about it. Regarding Edward Bluemel, in the TV series The Halcyon he played the kind of characters I use to root for, the gay underrated half of a couple of twins, whom family owns a gorgeous hotel in the centre of London during the blitz of WWII. His performance took me so much that I wanted to see how he could be on stage. I wasn’t disappointed by any of them, my expectation was fulfilled. The whole cast was very funny, btw.
The play Love In Idleness takes place during WWII, too, in 1944, the penultimate year of the war. Despite this, the storyline is very amusing and romantic and moving and tender.
Widow Olivia Brown has sent her boy Michael to Canada to make him safe from war. In the meantime, she has met a wealthy man, Sir John Fletcher: they fell in love and went to live in his beautiful house together with his governess Polton (a funny, skinny Nicola Sloane). Olivia seems perfectly at ease as the mistress of the house and at the opening of the play we see her talking at the telephone lying on the sofa, looking very smart and cheerful, a wonderful Eve Best who catches the attention with her vitality. She loves her new life, after having experienced a poor one.
When her son, now seventeen, announces in a letter that he’s coming home, she panics: she hasn’t told Michael about Sir John, yet, and doesn’t know how to tell him. He certainly still loves his father and wouldn’t like another man to replace him.
When Michael comes home, the fun for the audience begins. Not only it’s impossible for the couple to talk to him about their relationship because of his spoiled attitude. The boy proclaims himself a Liberal and his ideas are against what Sir John Fletcher represents, so they argue all the time (but he later doesn’t dislike the idea of a job he offers to him). Poor Sir Fletcher can’t even finish to dictate a letter to his secretary Miss Dell, because mother and son are always in the living room or, even when they are in other rooms, he can hear them discussing and shouting at each other or the woman making a sweeter voice calling his son, which drives the man crazy. Anthony Head is both distinguished and hilarious in the role, he has to pull himself together to keep the situation under control, with Vivienne Rochester looking even more austere and inflexible as his secretary.
The mother also treats his teenager son like a kid and Michael is very capricious, he jumps on the sofa or on bed going into a sulk. Edward Bluemel is exhilarating playing this role, he’s believable as a teenager. He touches his hair all the time, I couldn’t help thinking that his hair is almost a character itself.
When Michael finds out about the relationship, he refuses to accept his mother remarry – he becomes a sort of revenging Hamlet – and, to separate them, he tries to involve in his plan Sir John’s ex-wife Diana, a very young woman, but it doesn’t work and he falls in love with her. Charlotte Spencer enters wearing an unlikely pink dress and later a white dress, a detail that made me smile. Her laughter is irresistible.
At the end of part one, he succeeds. The mother has to choose between his son and the man she loves and chooses Michael. In the second part, the two people are now living in a modest apartment and Olivia pretends she’s happy not to disappoint him. But she loved the life she was living before and, most of all, she loved John. At this point, you really want to hug her!
I find that part very romantic, because Sir John comes to the flat to talk to her and shows his tender feelings for her, something you wouldn’t expect for a noble man of the time.
A happy ending could not be missed, with Michael finally understanding his mother and the new family of three reunited again. There’s a nice scene when Olivia comes back home and finds Michael and John washing the dishes together at the sink.
This play is fun, the timing never tires, there are just six characters who make the play very dynamic. Beautiful reconstruction of the WWII age with the help of beautiful props and costumes.
Last but not least, it talks about an interesting part of the British history I didn’t know about (children being sent to Canada during the war). It also shows a time when the society was changing, with new liberal ideas confronting with more concervative ideas, along with the contradictions that change brought with itself. I wanna watch more plays by Rattigan! I’ll keep an eye on future productions!
During the interval, I couldn’t help sending Edward Bluemel a tweet about his hair (with the wrong grammar, ops, I never get if ‘hair’ is singular or plural):
And he after a short while, liked it and replied:
Haha, he got my joke! It’s a pity he had to run away and didn’t stay at the stage door. I couldn’t meet other members of the cast, either. Oh well, another time.
Some notes about the set design and costumes.
Light curtains were used during the action, original WWII videos were projected on them from time to time.
Interior of a rich house: a sofa and an armchair at the center of the stage, a table behind the sofa, small tables and stools around, on the left a desk in one corner and a cocktail table forward. A vertical curtain on a fake window near the desk is moved up and down by the actors. Michael looks at himself on a big mirror near it. Doors on the background.
The modest house got a table with chairs at the centre of the stage, some poor pieces of forniture around, included one pantry and one sink. Michael uses a small swivel mirror now.
I noticed the same painting being on a wall of both the houses.
The actors move the furniture between the scenes, with the help of the staff.
I was in the 1st row, the stage was very high, but at least I could see the actors closely. It was a good seat after all.
Now, if you want to read further….
Cast and Creatives and their Twitter accounts:
Eve Best as Olivia Brown (there’s a fan site @EBestFans)
Edward Bluemel as Michael Brown @EdwardBluemel
Anthony Head as Sir John Fletcher @AnthonySHead
Vivienne Rochester as Miss Dell
Nicola Sloane as Polton / Miss Wentworth
Charlotte Spencer as Diana Fletcher @charspencer
There’s no a proper account or site for the Apollo Theatre, I bought my ticket with nimaxtheatres.com
LINKS & SOURCES
Production photos from What’s On Stage – © Catherine Ashmore
Love In Idleness Trailer youtube.com
Love in Idleness Anthony Head interview youtube.com