Enjoyable, amusing and well-acted though it is, it can’t match the power of the older work, but, in its brief scenes, Jeremy Herrin’s production establishes a rule-regulated atmosphere in which a precocious 14 year old scholarship boy (excellent Alex Lawther) feels alienated from peers and staff by both his lower middleclass background and his awkward personality. Help is at hand, however, from an unlikely source – the widowed actress mother (Anna Chancellor) of a popular prefect who offers cake and understanding to accompany her son’s tried and tested advice to just play the game.
Rattigan’s classic remains as poignant as ever – an astute study of a pernickety, unpopular master Andrew Crocker-Harris whose unfaithful wife (Chancellor again) treats him with cruel scorn and whose career never matched his scholastic abilities. Facing even greater humiliation on the eve of his final day, this desiccated human being finds his emptions uncontrollably released by a pupil’s unexpected act of kindness. Slightly stooped and dry as chalk dust, Nicholas Farrell is devastatingly moving as the desiccated “Crock” in Angus Jackson’s classy production which richly deserves its transfer from Chichester.
By Louise Kingsley
Harold Pinter, Panton Street, SW1Y 4DN
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Until 21st July
£15 – £49.50