As in his books, the dictates of Catholicism loom large as 20 year old Rose and her married, middle-aged psychology lecturer lover try to work out how to pursue their forbidden relationship – a liaison consummated on the night of her mother’s funeral and complicated further not only by his age and marital status but also by the fact that he’s the executor of the will.
Rose has been “bequeathed” to the care of her Catholic great aunts and uncle – an aging trio living in a strange house where nothing is quite where it should be, the bathroom is reached via the cluttered and significantly named living room, and any room in which a death has occurred has been permanently closed off.
The play is packed with symbolism. The uncle (Christopher Timothy) is a wheelchair bound priest whose faith has diminished along with the use of his legs; Caroline Blakiston’s frail aunt Teresa closes her eyes to what she doesn’t want to acknowledge (she seems oblivious to anything but her destination as she traipses to the loo).
The writing is sometimes laboured (Greene often seems to be working out his own personal dilemmas) and Diane Fletcher’s aunt Helen is positively evil in her determination to uphold religious doctrines at the expense of human compassion.
But Tom Littler’s revival still holds one’s interest, ratcheting the emotional stakes when Tuppence Middleton’s vivaciously avid Rose is forced, against her will, into an eye-opening confrontation with the distraught wife (Emma Davies) whose tenuous security she had thoughtlessly planned to destroy.
Jermyn Street Theatre, SW1Y 6ST
Tube | Piccadilly Circus
Until 30th March, £20
Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon