25 July 2006

Dear Terence Rattigan

I assume you're dead. But since Chrisopher Fry only died last year, I may be wrong. If so I apologise. This must be galling.

I saw your play [i]The Deep Blue Sea[/i] on Friday without any real hope I'd enjoy it. This is despite the excellent company at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, who are doing plenty of other things well in their currrent season. Still, I expected period propriety through sepia-tinted filters. Yet it had remarkable clarity. What felt like a faithful recreation of period theatrical practices was in fact a faithful recreation of the period, detail by detail.

Your characters have an undemonstrative torment that may have something to do with your own enforced public concealment of your homosexuality throughout your adult life. They are tight-lipped, but not cold-blooded. So much more interesting, isn't it, to watch characters trying to conceal turmoil than to watch writers and actors trying to reveal it?

It's a problem we're struggling with at Silver Tongue at the moment in rehearsals for Shiver. The two characters share a secret in the past and are, in their own ways, haunted by it. But they haven't seen each other for seventeen years and it would be ludicrous to imagine they're still having nightmares regularly on the stroke of midnight. They'd have topped themselves. For seventeen years they have been tight-lipped and they have almost become cold-blooded. Then they meet again. And each knows what the other is trying to conceal, is ambivalent about bringing it into the open.

Yours is a well-made play. Ours is structurally rather unusual, featuring some flashes and jump-cuts that would have outraged your audiences. It's a stickier wicket, as it doesn't progress (smoothly) forwards but jerks. I happen to think this is more realistic than a three-act character development and I hope that's how it looks despite the edges of surrealism. Perhaps what we're trying to do is square the circle between you and, I don't know, Maeterlinck. Maybe I'll get in touch with him, too.

I'll let you know how it goes.