Love in Idleness @ Apollo Theatre
Cast Includes Anthony Head and Eve Best
Running Time: 2 hours 40 mins, inc. interval
Love in Idleness is a lesser-known work by Terence Rattigan, having only had one London production (itself a rewrite of Less Than Kind, an unproduced Rattigan work). This production is a synthesis of the two – it takes the political edge of the former work and marries it with the structure of Love in Idleness. It also is part of Rattigan’s looser “War Trilogy”, forming the last part after Flare Path. This production is also a transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory, continuing its string of highly regarded transfers to the West End.
The narrative of the piece feels very typical of Rattigan – it is a very period, drawing room style drama and features Olivia Brown (Best) who is living with Sir John Fletcher (Head), a leading businessman and member of the War Cabinet. Olivia’s son Michael returns home from abroad, and the conflict between his view’s and Sir John’s are what causes the dramatic tension.
The structure of this revival is possibly where the piece falls down most – the three act structure has been conflated to two, with the original Act 2 being split on a supposed moment of tension (which is clearly signposted throughout the first half). This also causes issues of pacing within the new Act 2 – there is a huge delay between the two scenes as the set is completely changed. The transitions in the piece themselves are good and help evoke the era well, using Pathe news reports to help establish the time frame of the piece.
The casting of the piece is good – Eve Best shines as Olivia, and many of the piece’s best moments come from her or Anthony Head. The other cast members are strong, though there two characters that have very little to do and feel surplus to the plot. The piece feels very of its era and there has been no attempt to update the piece, which is possibly a good idea – sometimes the best way to show the contemporary parallels is to present the piece in its original fashion.
Summary: A nostalgic revival of this lesser-known Rattigan piece that, despite a couple of pacing issues, shines. ****