Less Than Kind

Terence Rattigan fell from favour in the 1950’s when John Osborne and the angry young men of the Royal Court ousted him from West End popularity. Now, to mark the centenary of his birth, there’s a renewed interest in his work.

Last year saw a sold out revival of After The Dance, and Flare Path and Cause Celebre are due to open in the next few weeks.

So all credit to the tiny Jermyn Street theatre which is currently hosting the world premiere of the original, previously unperformed version of a play he wrote in 1944 but which was subsequently rewritten and produced under a different title.

Adrian Brown’s classy production of Less Than Kind wouldn’t be out of place on any stage, but in this intimate space one becomes an eavesdropping guest in the plush Westminster house where Sir John Fletcher (still married but separated) has set up home with Olivia, an attractive, fortyish widow. He’s a Conservative cabinet minister and wealthy industrialist. She’s turned into the perfect social hostess.

Their cosy love nest is disrupted by the return of Olivia’s 17-year-old son who was evacuated to Canada at the outbreak of war five years earlier and is completely unaware of how much his mother’s situation has changed in the interim. She’s desperate for the two most important people in her life to get on, but, with all the naïve arrogance of youth, and brimming with his socialist convictions, he detests everything about her new paramour – and she is forced to choose.

Rattigan writes with an emotional acuity which, despite some dated language, still resonates today. Michael Simkins’ excellent Sir John obviously didn’t fall for Sara Crowe’s Olivia for her intellectual abilities, yet it’s clear that they’re totally devoted to each other. And you really want to knock some sense into David Osmond’s priggish Michael who sees himself as a latter-day Hamlet in this amusing and unexpectedly engrossing rediscovery.


Jermyn Street Theatre SW1Y 6ST; 020 7287 2875
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Until February 12

– Louise Kingsley