Grahame Greene’s The Potting Shed
Grahame Greene is far better known for his novels than his plays – and Cliff Richard is far more famous for his singing than his acting, but, way back in 1971, the ever youthful pop star took on the challenging central role of James Callifer in a revival of the novelist’s 1958 drama about family secrets and divine intervention.
I can’t comment on Sir Cliff’s performance, but, on the evidence of the current workmanlike production, Greene’s explorations of Catholicism are more suited to the page than the stage.
For thirty years, Mrs Callifer and her strongly atheist husband (who lies, unseen, on his deathbed when the play begins) have treated their son James like an outsider.
Even as a schoolboy, his mother had little time for him and now, in middle age, he’s a damaged human being, divorced from his wife, ostracised by the family, living alone in a tiny flat and undergoing therapy in an attempt to uncover the root of his problems.
Summoned back by his young niece (in direct defiance of her grandmother’s wishes) he tries, once again to find out exactly what happened in the potting shed so many years ago to make him an outcast.
Greene takes far too long to get to the heart of the matter. Only in the pivotal scene between James and Martin Wimbush’s Uncle William (another black sheep of the unbelieving family who became a Catholic priest but lost his faith and turned to drink) is there any real tension and this questioning drama of challenged beliefs finally shows its psychological power.
Finborough, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED.
Earl’s Court tube
0844 847 1652
Until January 29
£9 – £15
– Louise Kingsley