Infinity Stage Company presents: 'The Deep Blue Sea' | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Infinity Stage Company presents: ‘The Deep Blue Sea’

Olli Meek reviews a sensitive and stirring performance of one of Terrence Rattigan's finest plays

The Deep Blue Sea follows the 24 hours after Hester Collyer attempts to commit suicide at the opening of the play.  She is found by neighbours who treat her, and the rest of the play explores the impact of her actions on her relationships with those around her.

The opening of Infinity Stage Company’s production was understated and calm, the audience entering the theatre to Hester (Sophie MacDonald) already seated on stage; slow piano music set a scene of serenity, and this choice of soundtrack would be echoed throughout the rest of the play.  With the Amos Room of the Guild of Students as the stage, the technical setup was simplistic throughout, and although more technical elements would have enhanced the piece, such were the performances from multiple members of the cast that this provided little issue.

Actions were certainly shown to speak louder than words in a hard-hitting manner

The opening profiled the first of two sides to Collyer that the audience would experience, that being her at her lowest ebb, with no faith of her place or purpose in the world.  This, for me, was one of the most pertinent moments overall - without any noise being made, the woman on stage was making the decision to undertake the transition from life to death.  Actions were certainly shown to speak louder than words in a hard-hitting manner.

The complexity of Hester's character was emotional, engaging, and fundamental to the poignancy of the piece

This was the first side of Hester, with the second being a more self-assured and assertive version of herself.  A key part of this performance was the distinction between the two sides of her personality; MacDonald engineered the character so that they were distinct enough to make an impact, but not so dissimilar from one another that the audience are alienated from either side of her.  Hester demonstrates the more upright persona in interactions with Ann and Philip Welch (Darcy Dobson and Edward Shock) and Mrs Elton (Jade Corbett), neighbours who discover the suicide attempt, when she resists their company and help at the outset of the performance.  Her infatuation with Freddie and mental instability are contrasted with the power she holds over Sir William Collyer (Iain Alexander), her former husband, and these conflicting forces cause her severe anguish over the play.  The complexity of this performance was emotional, engaging, and fundamental to the poignancy of the piece.

Director Harry Tennison achieves his goal of providing a stimulating watch through the depth of the characters, as the play is dominated by multi-faceted personas.  Freddie Page (Scott Wilson), the former RAF pilot who Hester is in a relationship following the breakdown of her former marriage, is an alcoholic who is searching to tie down a job having moved back to England from Canada.  He is split between being in control of his and Hester’s relationship, however his own addiction to alcohol and lack of a job more than underline his personal vulnerability.  The emotive value of the plays performance almost put the audience on the back foot when it came to some of the comedy that Page provides amidst the seriousness.  His nuanced and convincing role wrapped the audience up in his story to the extent that there was uncertainty as to whether to laugh or not at times.

Alexander’s sensitive portrayal of Collyer exuded a likeability that absorbed the audience and made the failure of his marriage all the more stirring

Sir William Collyer proves an interesting character: he is the judge that Hester left to be with Page because of the more amorous relationship she sought, and despite having all the wealth and civic power a man would want, he is still plagued by his inability to provide what Hester wanted from the marriage.  The chemistry between Hester and William brought a touching sincerity and emotion to the performance that went far in conveying the love the two once had for one another.  Alexander’s sensitive portrayal of Collyer exuded a likeability that absorbed the audience and made the failure of his marriage all the more stirring.

Mention must also go to Alex Wilcox in the role of Mr Miller who, despite only fleeting glimpses of the character up until the end, provides the most rational voice in the play.  He, along with Jackie Jackson (Jason Timmington) in the case of Page, must rationalise with those characters who are not of sound mind, and whilst their input is not plentiful, it offered a refreshing rise and fall to the piece that was pitched very appropriately.   Miller’s humour, predominantly in the form of dry sarcasm and cutting cynicism, endears the audience to him initially, and his balance between his impersonal medical practitioner, and level-headed-advice-giving friend of Hester Collyer was very pleasing.

All in all, the play deals with challenging issues surrounding relationships, suicide, and mental health, and it was tackled superbly by the cast, making for a thought-provoking and thoroughly captivating watch.

(@ollimeek)



Published

11th May 2017 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

12th May 2017 at 1:35 pm



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