Tuesday 1 May 2012
Theatre review: South Downs and The Browning Version
Hare's play is entertaining if a bit vague - the school's religious affiliation is clearly a large element of what he wants to say, especially through the Confirmation classes that Blakemore finds himself constantly questioning. But in the end South Downs for me comes across as a play about outsiders, and accepting being one: It's through his friendship with popular prefect Duffield (the very good-looking, if a bit orange, Jonathan Bailey,) and Duffield's actress mother Belinda (Anna Chancellor) that Blakemore finds people sympathetic to his refusal to fit in.
Farrell's beautifully understated breakdown is the crux of the play but the whole piece (made up of a single scene in contrast to South Downs' many short ones) builds up gradually into a hugely satisfying, intensely moving picture that holds some hope for change at the end, and perfectly demonstrates why this one-acter has remained so well-loved. At times tonight's audience was a bit restless and noisy but this second play clearly sucked them in, with some events (particularly one cold act of cruelty by Millie) drawing gasps. Richard said it wasn't until right at the end that he decided he thought the second play was the superior one; for me it had me absorbed and convinced of its quality much earlier on. But either way, even if one of the plays is stronger than the other, the evening remains a satisfying double bill.
South Downs by David Hare and The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan are booking until the 21st of July at the Harold Pinter Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes including interval.