Sometimes I like taking advantage of the perks of having a Cineworld Unlimited card – it means I can go and see a theatre play, in the cinema, with only £8 (or abouts). I saw “The deep blue sea” a few weeks ago and it’s only now I managed to put aside some time and talk about it.
A flat in Ladbroke Grove, West London. 1952.
When Hester Collyer is found by her neighbours in the aftermath of a failed suicide attempt, the story of her tempestuous affair with a former RAF pilot and the breakdown of her marriage to a High Court judge begins to emerge.
With it comes a portrait of need, loneliness and long-repressed passion. Behind the fragile veneer of post-war civility burns a brutal sense of loss and longing.
I was pulled into it from the first few scenes when a woman is found on the floor of her apartment after a failed suicide attempt. She survives but only because she did not put a coin in the gas meter. The neighbours help her to bed and the concerned call her husband, who was a proeminent judge, to come and see her.
This is where the story gets interesting. Through conversations we find out that the man she was living with was her lover, that she ran away with. Her husband had not granted her divorce for fear of losing face in public and she did not want to meet him again. We find out about her precarious money situation as she does not have enough money to pay the rent to the landlady but she hopes that some of her paintings will sell well enough to cover it. She is a desperate woman. She’s still in love with her lover (even though he’s more like a man-child than a proper adult) and she still loves her ex husband (or at least the life he could offer her) by the way she asks about his car, the house and the friends they shared.
You have a woman who wants both worlds – the stability of married life with a successful husband and an attractive lover-boy on the side who can satisfy her. She lights up like a lamppost in the dark when he comes in and you can see their sexual attraction. But a relationship is often more than just pure lust and sex. There are things to consider and love does not pay for the heating.
Freddie is an ex-pilot who is struggling to get a job. He goes golfing and drinking and spends money left, right and center and responsibility is an unknown word for him. He does not think about the rent, about food, about the people around him, but he does (in his limited way) care about her.
“Out of your depth? I should bloody well say you are. I’m out of my depth too, and it’s a sensation I don’t care for. My God, how I hate getting tangled up in other people’s emotions. It’s the one thing I’ve tried to avoid all my life, and yet it always seems to be happening to me. Always.”
– Freddie in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea at the National Theatre
The relationship triangle is truly poisonous for Hester and she needs to break away from her husband (who wants her back to her old self), her alcoholic lover who does not care for her and find meaning in a life of her own.
She is constantly worrying about the other people and what they think of her and it’s only the mysterious doctor Miller who manages to get through to her – as she attempts a second suicide – this time feeding the meter.
The play is fantastic! It’s about fighting depression, loss, forging a life in difficulty and fighting suicidal thoughts.
Commentators have drawn parallels between Hester’s tragic story and that of Rattigan’s ex-lover, Kenneth Morgan, who committed suicide on 28 February 1949. Both homosexuality and attempted suicide were illegal in the 1950s, which is perhaps part of what draws Hester to the ex-doctor Mr Miller, who has been struck off the medical list for an offence that is only hinted at, but which is clearly homosexuality. The portrait of Hester has been highly praised for its emotional resonance and its portrayal of depression and the shame that it can evoke in its sufferer. [Source: Dramaonlinelibrary.com]
I loved the ending. She starts frying an egg (so mundane) and then goes and finds the jacket of her lover and as she is slowly sinking back into that depressive, blue, moody state she feels the eggs is burning and rushes back to it. As she sits down to eat the egg, she is crying in big sobs but then the sobs subside and she continues eating. She’s a survivor this one and every wound will slowly fade in time from a hot and burning pain to a dull throbbing.
10/10 would recommend – especially for those who have loved a bad boy at least once in their lives.
Shows can be booked at:
The Deep Blue Sea
Terence Rattigan’s devastating masterpiece contains one of the greatest female roles in contemporary drama.
Helen McCrory and director Carrie Cracknell reunite following the acclaimed Medea in 2014.