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In Praise of Love opens to outstanding reviews

Posted: Wednesday 07 December, 2016

Next Stage's December production of Terence Rattigan's In Praise of Love opened on Tuesday 6th December to an enthusiastic audience. Petra Schofield and Philip Horton (Bath Chronicle) both reviewed the opening performance and praised Next Stage's version of Rattigan's moving, emotional play for it's excellent direction and convincing acting. Tickets for the rest of the week are going fast, so call 01225 428600 now to ensure you don't miss out on this stunning Next Stage show.

Petra Schofield review:
Next Stage Theatre Company and their trade mark high standards bring this slightly lesser known Rattigan piece to The Mission this week. The play is loosely inspired by the true-life relationship between the Actor Rex Harrison and his actress wife Kay Kendall. In the mid 1950’s she was diagnosed with a terminal illness and Harrison tried to hide this from her whilst nursing her until her death. Here, Rattigan transforms the characters into Lydia and Sebastian Cruttwell. He is a left – wing egotistical literary critic whist she is an Estonian refugee; each trying to protect the other from the painful truth.

Despite a rather slow start this is a gem of a play examining relationships under pressure and the British inability to express emotions alongside the wish to avoid confrontation.Performances are strong and convincing, Bob Constantine (Sebastian Cruttwell) captures the arrogance and brutality of the Marxist critic whilst Caroline Groom (Lydia Cruttwell) shows great wit, perseverance and love above all other costs. The play takes off with the arrival of the excellent Richard Matthews (Mark Walters) and Chris Constantine (Joey Cruttwell) who bring different cultural and generational views on the matter.

Directed by Ann Ellison this is a fine examination of a difficult dilemma. The gradual revelations of truths and their various layers are well handled without sentiment or drama.

A rarely performed piece but another good example of how versatile the company are; the play runs until Saturday and is well worth a visit.

Philip Horton review for the Bath Chronicle:

Rattigan’s penultimate play, first performed in 1973, is loosely based on Rex Harrison and his wife Kay Kendall.

Insensitive, self-absorbed and Marxist, Sebastian is an acerbic literary critic who many years ago wrote a successful novel; a feat he has not since repeated. He is married to Lydia, an Estonian refugee that he met as war ended and he was in military intelligence. 28 years later he has a twenty year old son, Joey, who remarks that Sebastian “has an unpaid job in a crypto fascist organisation called the Liberal party.”

Lydia has a terminal illness of which Sebastian seems blissfully unaware. Both confide in their visiting American friend, Mark, who arrives basically to support Lydia in her hour of need. “Still murdering literary reputations?” he asks Sebastian.

Son Joey has a half hour play appearing on television and hopes all will gather to watch.
These varied relationships progress, skirting around the central problem of Lydia’s rapidly declining health, thus demonstrating, “The English vice of refusing to admit to our emotions.”

Bob Constantine is utterly believable as bombastic Sebastian, while real life son Chris as Joey, Lydia played by Caroline Groom and the always excellent Richard Matthews, are equally convincing.

It was a pleasure to see a relatively unfamiliar play, particularly such a good one, so well performed. A must for serious theatregoers in Bath.

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