Finally the South Downs/Browning version review
It's been nearly two weeks since I made my first trip to Chichester and a combination of indolence, sickness and general busyness has stood between me and my keyboard. The problem is that now that much time has passed my memory of this double bill of short plays has started to fade.
Not that they weren't very accomplished pieces of theatre, they were both superbly directed and acted pieces. I suppose what I mean is they are going to be memorable more as pieces attached to my first outing to Chichester than purely as plays in their own right.
Firstly the two work brilliantly together but then David Hare's South Down's was written to accompany Rattigan's The Browning Version. Both are set in public schools in the 1950s/60s both playwrights having gone to public schools themselves.
South Downs centre's on pupil John Blakemore (Alex Lawther) who is hyper intelligent, precocious and deemed odd by the other boys. While The Browning Version centre's on teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris (Nicholas Farrell) who is reluctantly retiring with no pension.
Both explore self identity and loneliness. Blakemore questions his inability to fit in with the rest of the boys and Crocker-Harris, worn down by years of academic grind and living in a loveless marriage questions his reputation among his pupils and his wider purpose.
If I was pressed to give a preference then it would be South Downs because it more easily transcended the period in which it is set. That and the fact that Lawther showed great promise in his professional debut.
Although I must mention Crocker-Harris's wife Millie played by Anna Chancellor who in a moment of vicious tongue-lashing is so cruel to her husband it raised a gasp from the audience.
This double bill is definitely worth a trip to Chichester to see and is booking until October 8. I'm going to give them a joint four stars.