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Review: The Donmar's all female The Tempest, King's Cross

Review: Kenny Morgan, Arcola Theatre and the inevitable comparison with the NT's Deep Blue Sea

Kenny-morganMike Poulton's play draws on the real life of Terrence Rattigan and the events which inspired his play The Deep Blue Sea. And, having seen the National Theatre's production of TDBS in June it is difficult not to draw direct comparisons.

Poulton's play centres on actor Kenny Morgan (Paul Keating), the secret lover of Terrence Rattigan (Simon Dutton) who left him for a younger man Alec (Pierro Niel-Mee). In Deep Blue Sea Kenny becomes Hester who has left her husband, a judge, for Freddie a young, former test pilot.

The play opens with Kenny's attempted suicide and from there his relationships with Alec and with Terry unfold. In The Deep Blue Sea Hester is trying to keep the fact that she is living with her lover not her husband secret, in Kenny Morgan it Terry who is trying to keep his homosexuality secret and it puts a different gloss on the relationships.

Kenny, while living a life of champagne and caviar with Terry, was always closeted, a kept man in the flat upstairs. With Alec they are constantly short of cash and behind on the rent but live together albeit in a grotty flat in Camden. The problem is Alec drinks and goes away a lot and Kenny feels like he is losing him or perhaps he never had him in the first place.

When he's at his lowest ebb Terry reappears in his life and offers to take him back. Should he go?

There are a lot of people that seem to care - three neighbours go out of their way to help him - which implies Kenny is otherwise a solid, decent person under immense emotional anguish. However, when the struck-off doctor, Mr Ritter (George Irving), points out to him that there are plenty of people who have died when they would have chosen to live it does make his behaviour just a little melodramatic. With Helen McCrory's Hester there were hints of a playfulness and a charm that made her own moments melodrama a little easier to forgive.

Tom Burke's test pilot Freddie too had a charm about him which Alec here doesn't, he is often just cruel. You do wonder whether Kenny is the only one among the trio capable of real emotional attachment. Perhaps that is the real tragedy.

The language and style of the writing is such that it feels like it is a play that Rattigan would have written had he been able to and that is no mean feat on Poulton's part. I'm going to give it four stars.

It is two hours and 35 minutes long and is at the Arcola Theatre until October 15.

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