As part the inaugural season of the Kenneth Branagh Company two lesser-known Terrence Rattigan plays, ‘Harlequinade’ and ‘All On Her Own’ are playing in repertory along with a star-studded version of ‘A Winter’s Tale’.
Whilst neither of the plays are Rattigan at his absolute finest, they are both thoroughly fascinating and I applaud Branagh for giving us the opportunity to experience them.
The curtain raiser, ‘All On Her Own’, is a 25 minute monologue chillingly delivered by the wonderful Zoe Wanamaker. Originally written in 1968 for TV it was adapted for stage in 1976 and presents us with a slightly inebriated widow having a dark night of the soul facing uncomfortable truths about her marriage. It is an enigmatic, slightly mysterious piece and Wanamaker pulls it off with a touchingly truthful performance.
‘Harlequinade,’ on the other hand, could not be more different. A lively, sweet-hearted farce it is Rattigan’s love letter to the theatre following the antics of a Shakespearean troupe putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet in the provinces. As the aging actor-manager of the troupe, Branagh chews up the scenery delightfully and his comic timing is a joy. Wanamaker makes a few brief scene-stealing appearances as a boozy dame, a la, Edith Evans.
On occasion the actors push a little too hard to make up for the fact the Rattigan’s writing is not quite as sharp as it could be. Nevertheless I was smiling throughout and the audience roared with appreciation at the end.
I was smiling throughout and the audience roared with appreciation at the end
As was to be expected of Branagh’s new venture, it is a classy act comprising great direction, top-notch production values and a talented company of both veteran actors and exciting newcomers. I look forward to the rest of the season.