Restraint the key word for Rattigan play

Anthony Calf is portraying Edwardian emotional restraint at Chichester Festival Theatre this summer.

But, as he’s quick to point out, it’s restraint at the heart of a drama which speaks to us directly in the most modern way.

Anthony is playing Sir William Collyer in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea.

“I see him as a respectable figure from the past. He is a successfully lawyer. In fact, he is now a judge as quite a young man. He knows right from wrong and he is quite morally minded, but at the same time he is strangely non-judgemental.

“But what he is not really very good at are the emotions. He finds them terribly difficult. He is the archetypal Edwardian man, and I think his wife Hester (played by Amanda Root) is looking for something else.

“The play doesn’t specifically say, but we think they have been married for about 15 years and have no children. But it is not really about that. It is more about (Hester’s) emotional turmoil.

“I think it was written in about 48 or 49, and you think about England after the second of two World Wars, a time of financial difficulty and hardships, a very grey time. but around the corner there were the 60s and women’s emancipation. And yet here we have Rattigan putting a woman at the centre of his play. It’s very significant.”

Significant too, however, that it wasn’t too long afterwards that Rattigan was shoved aside by the kitchen sink brigade, his brand of middle-class drama seeming desperately out of vogue.

Recent years, however, have seen Rattigan come back much more into focus, helped this year by the centenary of his birth.

Anthony certainly sees no obstacles whatsoever to relishing the dilemmas Rattigan puts on the stage.

“What is happening could be now. I am from the middle classes. I can relate to it. But it is more about the fact that Hester’s situation is so real and that she deals with it in a very human way.

“It does not matter whether she is working class or middle class or whatever. It is the strength of the emotions that we probably all recognise now in some way or other.”

Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea runs from July 13-September 3; completing, the mini Rattigan festival, Jonathan Hyde and Malcolm Sinclair lead the cast in Rattigan’s Nijinsky by Nicholas Wright, based on a screenplay by Rattigan (July 19-September 3).